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Obama signs health coverage tax credit measure into law

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Employees who lose their jobs due to foreign competition or worked for companies whose pension plans failed will again be eligible for federal health insurance premium subsidies under legislation signed into law Monday by President Barack Obama.

Under the measure, which received final congressional approval last week, the federal government will pay 72.5% of premiums for health plan coverage, like COBRA, for people who were laid off from their jobs due to foreign competition, and for retirees ages 55 through 64 in pension plans that were taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

The premium subsidy — known as the health coverage tax credit — also will be available for plans offered through voluntary employee beneficiary associations set up for those who worked in such industries as steel and auto parts manufacturing that failed and went out of business.

However, the subsidies could not be used to offset health insurance premiums for plans offered in the public exchanges authorized by the 2010 health care reform law.

Unlike health care reform law premium subsidies, eligibility for the HCTC and the amount of the HCTC is not tied to beneficiaries’ income.

The legislation signed by President Obama extends the HCTC, which expired at the end of 2013, through the end of 2019.