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Help for California, and Reform Presses On

New numbers released by the state indicates that January was the worst on record for joblessness in California at a rate of 12.5%, with eight counties experiencing at least 20% unemployment. Yesterday the Senate passed the “American Workers, State, and Business Relief” Act, which will bring some much needed help to California and its fifth highest unemployment rate (behind Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, and South Carolina). The bill:

-Extends the 65% COBRA subsidy from the stimulus act to the end of 2010, saving unemployed beneficiaries in California $720/month

-Extends the enhanced federal matching rate for Medicaid (FMAP) for 6 months to June 2011, providing California $1.5-2B for the 2010-2011 budget

-Delays the scheduled 21% SGR payment rate cut for providers treating Medicare patients

In health reform news, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled as expected today that the reform bill must become law before a Reconciliation bill can be moved. The CBO and legislative language are expected as early as tomorrow, and numerous sources point to the final process starting on Monday, where the House Budget Committee will begin marking up the reconciliation bill. As for the question of Senate support, peruse this letter sent to minority leader Mitch McConnell today from Harry Reid.