Democrats Consider Expanding Healthcare and Unemployment Benefits


Authored by Jon Mercer in Politics 
Published on 01-10-2009

President-elect Obama and many Congressional Democrats are working on a plan to expand American’s health care insurance and unemployment benefits. The plan is one of several being considered in the Obama two-year economic recovery package.

Another part of the package is to extend unemployment compensation to part-time workers. Republicans have blocked similar plans to aid part-time workers in the past. There is also a plan being developed that would help to pay for employer’s expenses for continuing health insurance coverage for laid-off or retired workers temporarily. The plan also includes coverage for the unemployed’s dependents as well.

This part of the plan comes from a little known 22-year old Federal law called Cobra. Cobra allows workers who lose jobs that do not have benefits to be eligible to apply for Medicaid coverage for the first time. Although they are just beginning to work on the package, some of the aforementioned ideas indicate the possible long-range changes that President-elect Obama and House Democrats have in mind for the “American Recovery and Reinvestment” Plan.

Mr. Obama outlined the plan in his weekly radio address last Saturday, and on YouTube. In the weekly address, Obama said that these plans would be implemented along with other one-time measures to help jump-start the weak economy. The measures would be typical of federal stimulus packages, containing money for road improvements and other job-creating public works projects.

Obama’s total package will cost in excess of $775 billion. Congress, in a push to help the weakening economy, has proposed that the stimulus plan be ready for a vote in January. But with inevitable delays during the holidays, the House is not expected to vote on the plan until sometime in February. Also, there are concerns over the overall cost of the package, and that the final draft could contain too much so-called pork barrel spending.

In Saturday’s address, President-elect Obama announced that he would be addressing Congressional leaders of both parties on Monday in Washington to call for bipartisan cooperation for the stimulus package. “We could see a much deeper economic downturn that could lead to double digit unemployment if we don’t act swiftly and boldly” said Obama in his Saturday address.

To generate the demand for goods and services and put money in the hands of consumers, Obama called for proposals that would quickly stimulate the economy, without including waste or special projects. The emerging plan is likely to include hundreds of billions of dollars in relief for states with budget-busting costs for Medicaid, education, and extension of unemployment benefits. The plan also calls for billions of dollars for construction projects that Mr. Obama has dubbed “shovel ready.”


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