The health care bill debate seems all consuming. At least in terms of press coverage.

But yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a defense spending bill (H.R. 3326) that, according to the DC Employment Law Update:  "prevents most defense contractors and subcontractors from forcing their employees or independent contractors to sign, as a condition of employment, agreements to arbitrate certain employment-related claims. The Senate approved this provision … in October."

The arbitration provision conditions the receipt of a federal defense contract worth more than $1 million on two agreements by the company. Details of the provision can be found here and here. 

The bill would also extend the COBRA premium subsidy offered by ARRA from nine to 15 months. In addition, the job lost eligibility date would be revised to February 28, 2010.   The bill will now need to be reconciled with the Senate version and back for another vote before going on to the President for signature.

Similar provisions are being introduced in another bill so it seems more likely now that such a measure is going to be a reality before year’s end in one way or another.

For now, employers should sit tight on their COBRA documentation. We’re likely to see a year end scramble in the next week or so as Congress wraps this up for the year.

UPDATE: On December 17, 2009, the House also passed a jobs bill that contains further extensions to COBRA.  It now goes on to the Senate for further debate