Los Angeles Times Looks At Debate Over Trade Bill
The Los Angeles Times today examines the "congressional impasse" over providing health coverage and other benefits to American workers displaced by international trade (Vieth, Los Angeles Times, 4/17). As part of a bill authorizing presidential trade negotiating authority, the Senate Finance Committee in February approved a provision that would offer trade-displaced workers a 75% subsidy to purchase health insurance through COBRA -- the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows unemployed workers to keep their employer-sponsored health coverage by paying 102% of the premiums. A proposal by President Bush and the version of the trade bill passed in the House last December do not contain any health insurance provisions. Some Republicans have suggested that they would support a tax credit that would cover up to 60% of the cost of trade-displaced workers' health insurance (American Health Line, 4/16). The Times reports that the White House and congressional Republicans are "particularly skittish" about voting for health insurance subsidies because they see such provisions as a "potential Trojan horse trotting in the direction of universal [health] coverage" (Los Angeles Times, 4/17). Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, yesterday called on Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to schedule a vote on the trade bill for next week. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking minority member of the Senate Finance committee, pressed for a compromise, saying, "If Republicans keep on ignoring the issue of health care in trade adjustment assistance, then there will be no trade promotion authority. And if Democrats insist on providing health care only with COBRA and Medicaid, there will be no expanded trade adjustment assistance" (CongressDaily, 4/16). The full Los Angeles Times article, is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.