Senate Passes Trade Bill with Displaced-Worker Benefits, Bill Goes to President Bush
The Senate yesterday voted 64-34 to approve a trade bill that includes provisions to help American workers displaced by international trade purchase health insurance, the Washington Post reports. The House approved the legislation 215-212 last Saturday, and the bill now goes to the White House for President Bush's signature (Dewar, Washington Post, 8/2). The bill, which would allow the president to present trade agreements to Congress for straight up-or-down votes without amendments, would provide uninsured trade-displaced workers with a refundable tax credit to cover 65% of the cost of their health insurance premiums. The workers could use the tax credits to purchase health insurance through COBRA, the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows unemployed workers to retain employer-sponsored health coverage by paying 102% of the premiums, or through state-sponsored insurance purchasing pools and high-risk pools. Secondary workers -- those who lose their jobs because they provide services for American industries affected by international trade -- also would receive the tax credits (American Health Line, 7/29).
Bush, who is expected to sign the bill, called the Senate's action a "historic moment" (Firestone, New York Times, 8/2). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who voted in favor of the bill, said that it strikes "the right balance" between allowing Congress and the White House to promote trade together and providing support for displaced workers (Simon/Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 8/2). But some Republicans "expressed dismay" over the legislation's "overly generous" benefit provisions, CongressDaily/AM reports (Norton, CongressDaily/AM, 8/2). Overall, 43 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one Independent voted for the bill, while 29 Democrats and five Republicans opposed the measure (Washington Post, 8/2).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.