Companies are permitted to charge, and generally do, the full cost of premiums plus a 2% administrative fee. COBRA must be offered by firms with 20 or more employees as long as they continue to offer health coverage. Generally, it's offered for 18 months after a job ends, though in some circumstances that can be extended.
In 2008, employees paid an average of 16% of premiums for individual coverage and an average of 27% for family coverage, according to the Families USA report. But once the employer drops the cost-sharing, premiums soar. Last year, the full COBRA costs for an individual reached a national average of $4,656 per year, or $388 per month. The full cost for family coverage hit a national average of $12,823, or about $1,069 per month.