As another cycle of lockdowns shutters businesses and slows the economy, employers are again forced to take a hard look at their bottom lines. Health care remains one of the biggest line items in every organization's budget, and it falls to benefits brokers to help their clients figure out how to manage costs in this critical area.

Certain industries, including tourism and brick-and-mortar retail, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but the U.S. as a whole has seen millions of workers laid off over the past year. Many could opt into health coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

For laid off workers, COBRA eliminates gaps in coverage for anywhere from 18 to 36 months and allows them to stay within their coverage network. However, COBRA can be expensive, as the plan shifts more costs to the former employee. Instead of employers sharing the cost of premiums — most employers typically cover at least 50% of the cost — COBRA stipulates that individuals pay 100% of the premium, plus any administration costs.

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