News: 2009 Press Release
For Release: May 6, 2009
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Commissioner Poizner Calls on Governor To Immediately Sign Legislation That Extends Availability of Health Insurance
Enactment of Bill, Sponsored by Commissioner Poizner, Would Save Average Family $800 Monthly
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner praised the legislature for its speedy approval of AB 23
by Assemblymembers Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) and Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego), a bill sponsored by Commissioner Poizner that would aid thousands of Californians during this economic crisis. The bill is expected to return to the Assembly for concurrence on Monday.
"When the bill is signed by the Governor, tens of thousands of Californians will immediately be given access to health insurance at more affordable rates," said Commissioner Poizner. "I urge the Governor to sign the bill swiftly and I also want to thank Assemblymembers Dave Jones and Nathan Fletcher for their leadership and work to get this important legislation passed."
The federal stimulus package was signed on Feb. 17, 2009, and includes a 65 percent COBRA subsidy to continue the health coverage for employees who had been laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. The subsidy lasts up to nine months and is subject to some qualifications. Those who had previously declined to enroll in the COBRA program or discontinued coverage due to cost or other factors will be notified of the subsidy and be allowed to enroll in the program.
The Department of Insurance determined that a change in state law was needed to allow laid off employees of small businesses to apply for the federal subsidy. Since then, CDI has drafted bill language along with legislative staff, small businesses and insurers to allow access to the federal money.
Federal COBRA covers employees of firms that employ 20 or more employees. California has a separate program, known as Cal-COBRA, which extends the same benefits to employees of small businesses that employ between 2 and 19 people. The federal legislation permits states to allow these employees to qualify for the 65 percent subsidy, but only if the state passes specific legislation.
AB 23, which unanimously passed today out of the Senate, would explicitly allow those who worked for California small employers to enroll in Cal-COBRA. It will include those who lost their jobs dating back to Sept. 1, 2008, and allow them to withdraw a previous rejection of Cal-COBRA coverage.
In recent months, Commissioner Poizner has traveled the state informing unemployed Californians of their options to obtain health insurance. One of the resources he has highlighted is the Foundation for Health Coverage Education's www.coverageforall.org Web site, a one-stop center to find out about health insurance opportunities.
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