The House bill allows people age 55 or older, or people who have been at the same job for ten years or more, to continue on COBRA at their own expense until they became eligible for Medicare. Some health experts saw this as a way to begin extending guaranteed coverage to those older people who weren’t yet 65, with the eventual goal of moving to a Medicare for All solution for reform. (Sen. Max Baucus, for instance, has proposed letting people age 55 to 64 buy into Medicare.) Perhaps opponents of this solution saw that too.
Employers objected to expanding COBRA, for which they’ve never had much love, arguing that keeping track of former employees was an “administrative burden,” and that costs would increase as these ex-workers got older and sicker, causing the premiums these companies pay for both current and former workers to rise.
The changes in the Senate version of the stimulus package show that health reform may have a tough time making it to the finish line. Journalists need to keep a sharp eye on the race.