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Bill would extend COBRA benefits to LGBT families

WASHINGTON – Gay allies Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., introduced a bill today to extend equal COBRA benefits to LGBT families.

Called the Equal Access to COBRA Act of 2011, the bill would equalize the benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), guaranteeing continuation health coverage to any qualified beneficiary under an employer’s health insurance plan, including domestic partners and the children of domestic partners when employers choose to cover them.

Currently, COBRA mandates only that employees, their spouses and dependent children can continue their health coverage, usually at their own expense, after certain qualifying events, most commonly when the employee leaves or loses his or her job.

This bill would ensure that other beneficiaries would have the equal ability to obtain continuation coverage, as well as the subsidies Congress has recently enacted to assist families with the cost of utilizing COBRA benefits.

“In these troubled economic times, social safety-net benefits like COBRA continuation coverage are even more important to American families,” said Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign.

“Hundreds of employers, including more than half of the Fortune 500, already extend health benefits to the domestic partners of their employees as a matter of fairness as well as good business practice. LGBT people should have the equal ability to maintain those critical benefits for their families during difficult times. We applaud Senator Boxer and Representative Weiner for their leadership in seeking these important protections for our community.”

The Equal Access to COBRA Act was first introduced in the Senate during the 111th Congress by Boxer. This is the first time the legislation has been introduced in the House.