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Bill would help jobless keep health coverage

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SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Californians laid off from a small business would get help paying for their health insurance under a bill sent to the governor.

The state Assembly last week approved legislation allowing out-of-work Californians to take advantage of a health care subsidy in the federal stimulus package.

The bill lets workers who are laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, receive a 65 percent federal subsidy to keep their private health insurance under the Cal-COBRA program. Cal-COBRA covers former employees of companies with two to 19 workers.

Assemblyman Dave Jones, a Sacramento Democrat who authored the bill, says the subsidy could help up to 100,000 Californians.

The federal COBRA subsidy already covers workers from larger employers, so no additional state legislation is needed to take advantage of it.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement saying he would sign the bill. He said it will offer Californians an "affordable opportunity to keep their health care coverage."

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