To those who hadn’t been closely following the twists and turns in the legislative process, this must have made it seem like help with insurance coverage was on the way for everyone who had lost a job. Several days before the House and Senate reached agreement, the AP issued a story that actually focused on all the insurance expansion proposals on the table. But by the time a final bill emerged, ‘what might have been’ was old news.
In health care, old news does matter, because so much of the reform action takes place in the back rooms where lobbyists hold sway. In its wrap-up, The New York Times explained the surviving COBRA subsidy—the government will pay 65 percent of the cost of premiums for up to nine months after being laid off. It also reported:
Negotiators dropped a significant provision of the House bill that would have given states a new option to provide Medicaid for the unemployed, with the entire cost borne by the federal government.
The paper of record did not record that the COBRA extensions for older workers were gone.