COBRA Bill May Become Law Soon

A Way for Musicians and Other Artists to Extend Their Health Insurance

Volume CIII, No. 7/8July, 2003

A new bill that provides state funds to pay for a portion of entertainers’ COBRA payments has passed the State Legislature and is now awaiting Governor Pataki’s signature.

COBRA – the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – is a federal program that allows workers to pay for their own health insurance, for a certain period of time, when they leave a job and lose their benefits. Many Local 802 members use COBRA to continue their health benefits if they drop off the union’s health plan for one reason or another.

The new bill means the state would pay up to 50 percent of COBRA premiums for entertainers and others, for a period of up to 12 months.

A coalition initiated by the four largest performers’ unions – Equity, SAG, AFTRA and Local 802 – worked for passage of the bill. The campaign was coordinated by the Actors’ Fund.

In any 12-month period, 37 percent of those receiving health insurance from entertainment industry union health funds lose their eligibility, according to the Actors’ Fund. More than 70 percent of those who are offered COBRA do not enroll, many because they cannot afford it.

The bill can be delivered to the governor’s desk by the Senate any time before December 31. It has the support, in concept, from the Executive Chamber staff and the Superintendent of Insurance, Greg Serio.

Actor Jerry Stiller told the Actor’s Fund, “We still need Governor Pataki to approve, but having the Senate and Assembly pass this bill is a huge step in the right direction.”

The Entertainment Industry Health Insurance Coalition was formed in November 1999 as an advocacy group for health insurance legislation that would assist uninsured industry members.