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.