In a Pandemic SAG-AFTRA Makes Health Coverage No Longer Viable for Most Members
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posted 19 Aug 2020 by Krister Axel
Only 30k of the 160k members will qualify.

In a memo to members last week, SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris blames rising costs and the pandemic for recently announced changes that will sharply cut eligibility for the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan on Jan. 1. For many longtime, dues-paying members, this comes as a shock - as families are scrambling to find other sources for needed health care coverage in the midst of a troubling pandemic. Health Plan changes include: increasing the yearly minimum required for health coverage to approximately $26,000; taking away the Age & Service Eligibility; and eliminating the Plan 1/Plan 2 system for a single plan.

SAG and AFTRA merged to SAG-AFTRA in 2012. Actors still work, eight years later, under either a SAG or AFTRA contract, not SAG-AFTRA. This, in turn, funds either the SAG and AFTRA pension plans, which remain un-merged. Very often, actors have their earnings split, making it impossible in many cases to make the yearly minimums for a pension credit under either pension plan. Meanwhile, the terms of even the latest contracts don’t come close to what’s needed for members to meet their union’s ever-increasing minimums.

Almost 10 years ago, Craig Simmons filed a whistleblower complaint against his union for allegedly not being willing to cover for criminal activity on the part of Bruce Dow and other officials for the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans (SAG-PPHP). Now, as Carteris advises applying for COBRA - an expensive and temporary solution - to affected members with significantly reduced incomes, that disconnect between trustees of the SAG-PPHP fund and union members is at an unfortunate high. The funds lost in the embezzlement scheme hatched by former chief information officer Nader Karimi might have shored up the fund's solvency in this moment of crisis.

We understand that no one welcomes the disruption of changing health coverage — even if similar, less costly alternatives are available — but it’s important to note that those participants who lose Plan coverage may still have good, affordable health insurance options. – SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris

This is a bitter pill to swallow for members of SAG-AFTRA as the contested re-election of Carteris last year may continue to be a point of conflict for many who feel that their union is no longer living up to its promise of protecting the welfare of union members. The thought was that the SAG-AFTRA merger would have made the union more powerful, but it seems now that the net effect has been to drive costs up for the average member, and make access to healthcare that much more more difficult. In many cases, members will simply no longer qualify for the coverage that they earned through years, if not decades, of paying union dues.

About the Author

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Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.


Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist