COBRA Law is a Win for Entertainers

Guest Commentary

Volume CIV, No. 11November, 2004

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodksy

The explosive rise in the cost of health insurance has had a devastating effect on the entertainment industry, especially for those working on Broadway and around New York state.

It was our responsibility to change this. The coalition we formed in Albany, led by labor — with significant help from management — got it done.


Intermittent employment is a fact of life for most people in the entertainment industry, leading to regular lapses in their health insurance. The story is all too common.

Each year about 25 percent of the 25,000 people covered by one of the union multi-employee plans lose eligibility because of failure to work the requisite hours or earn the required minimum contribution.

The right to purchase insurance through the COBRA mechanism is an important option, but most just do not have the $250 to $350 a month typically required to cover an individual, or the considerably larger amount — three to four times the individual premium — needed to pay for family coverage.


For over four years we’ve worked towards the goal of expanding New York’s health coverage to entertainment workers across the state. Our hard work has paid off.

After long battles and a disheartening veto of last year’s bill, our goal to insure most in the industry has been reached. The bill was signed into law last month.

Our new law provides health insurance for persons in the entertainment industry. Specifically, the law establishes a four-year demonstration program of providing state subsidies to COBRA health insurance premiums for workers experiencing sporadic employment in the entertainment industry as well as for displaced workers.

Our new program will significantly reduce the cost of health insurance during times between non-entertainment jobs.

This law is a major victory for the industry and for entertainment workers around the state. No longer will one have to choose between food, their child’s education or health insurance.

The toughness and leadership provided by industry unions, lobbying done by well-known actors and actresses, tireless work by the union’s representatives in Albany, the help of the League, and the lobbying effort and letter writing by thousands of entertainment industry workers prevailed. It’s a milestone for the industry.

Thanks to all who helped so much.