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July 22, 2005

COBRA Continuation Program Extended

Good news! The COBRA Continuation Program has been extended to June 30, 2007.

The New York State Continuation Assistance Program, which offers qualifying entertainment industry workers (and some displaced factory workers) a 50% subsidy of COBRA premiums for up to one year, was signed by Governor Pataki in September, 2004 and went into effect January 1, 2005. Originally, the bill was scheduled to expire at the end of June 2005.

More good news! Of all those eligible for the program, Actors’ Equity, with 160, has by far the most members benefiting from the program. To be eligible for assistance, you must:

  • Be a resident of New York State who has held a position in the entertainment industry,
  • Be eligible for, or already covered by, COBRA continuation coverage through a collectively bargained benefits plan, such as the Equity-League Trust Fund,
  • Not be receiving coverage from a NYS Department of Health program or Medicare,
  • Not be currently eligible for employer provided coverage.

In addition, for an individual, monthly income may not exceed $1,984; for a family of two, monthly household income may not exceed $2,663; for a family of three, monthly household income may be up to $3,342; for a family of four, monthly household income may be up to $4,021 and for a family of 5, monthly household income may be up to $4,700.

Once enrolled, you will receive up to 12 months of a 50% premium subsidy. If during this 12-month period, you become eligible for health insurance and go off COBRA, your subsidy would stop. However, if your coverage expires and you once again self-pay under COBRA, you can continue to receive whatever remains of your 12-month benefit.

The legislation establishing the COBRA subsidy was endorsed and supported by The Entertainment Industry Health Insurance Coalition, a group of entertainment industry unions, including Equity; guilds; social service agencies and others, coordinated by The Actors' Fund. It was sponsored in the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) and in the Senate by Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) with critical assistance from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan). Mr. Brodsky has said that he was "delighted to spearhead" the bill because "the impact of no health care on the lives of actors, technicians, stagehands, and everyone else was no secret to me… We do very little for Broadway in comparison to things like professional sports, and making life easier for those in the business is both the right thing to do, and good economic policy."

Reporting to the membership at the Eastern Regional meeting on April 8, Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser said, "This initiative is the perfect example of how grassroots lobbying can be effective, so thanks once again to all who went to Albany or wrote, phoned or e-mailed your legislators."

For more information, contact the Equity League Trust Funds at (212) 869-9380 or www.equityleague.org; the New York State Insurance Department at (800)-342-3736 or www.ins.state.ny.us/cobra_intro.htm.





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