House Committee Hearing Focuses on Worker Benefits
Workers who lose their jobs because of international trade competition should receive more assistance from the Trade Adjustment Assistance tax credit to maintain health insurance immediately after they become unemployed, according to several witnesses testifying on Monday before the House Education and Labor Committee, CongressDaily reports (Brady, CongressDaily, 3/27).
The federal subsidy pays 65% of health insurance costs for newly unemployed factory workers who lose their jobs because of international trade competition, although workers must pay 100% of insurance costs up front for at least 60 days until the tax credit goes into effect. The tax credit pays a portion of health insurance costs for 11% of the 250,000 people who are eligible in a given year (American Health Line, 3/1).
Stan Dorn, a research associate at the Urban Institute, testified that the TAA program "has experienced serious problems reaching its goals." Dorn said that the federal government should increase the credit to cover 75% of health insurance premiums for displaced workers, adding that workers usually have 85% of premiums covered while employed and many do not have enough money saved to pay for the loss in coverage.
Bruce Herman, executive director of National Employment Law Project, said that the TAA's eligibility requirements are too strict and should be widened to allow all service and manufacturing workers and public employees to enroll in the program. TAA is up for reauthorization in 2007 (CongressDaily, 3/27).