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President Obama Tuesday night signed into law legislation that provides a stopgap, 31-day extension of federal subsidies of COBRA health care premiums.
The Senate approved this on a 78-19 vote, while the House cleared it last week.

Under H.R. 4691, the 65%, 15-month premium subsidy for laid-off workers is extended to those involuntarily terminated from March 1 through March 31.

Without the extension, employees laid off after Feb. 28 would have been ineligible for the subsidy.

With unemployment at a 25-year high, more than 14 million are eligible for subsidized COBRA, according to Hewitt.

According to USA Today, unemployed workers who signed up in March lost their subsidy on Dec. 1, and thousands more were facing the end of subsidized premiums within the next few weeks.

Additionaly, the measure  will allow employees to receive the subsidy if they first lost group coverage due to a reduction in hours and then were terminated after enactment of the legislation, if certain conditions are met.

The latest extension is just a 31-day stop gap measure. The Senate is currently considering HR 4213, the “American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act,” that would include extending the premium subsidy to employees laid off through December 31, 2010.

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