HOLLYWOOD — IATSE president Thomas Short has told the 100,000 union members that dealing with soaring health insurance costs will remain a key priority for the below-the-line showbiz union.
“There is a health insurance crisis in the United States,” Short said in a recent bulletin to members. “Our consultants tell me that hospital and medical insurance premiums are going up by 12-14% a year. Drug costs are going up 20% nationally a year.”
Short said the union’s political action committee will target its contributions this year toward members of Congress who are willing to oppose big drug companies and the insurance industry. He also urged members to contribute to the IATSE-PAC, and to let legislators know that health care reform in the United States is “long overdue.”
Earlier this year, IATSE West Coast members ratified a three-year deal that increased producer hourly contributions to the pension and health plans for the first time in 20 years, maintained the qualification and benefit structure of the health plan, and included health plan changes designed to save $54 million through hikes in co-pays.
“But we cannot expect our employees to fork over double-digit increases in their welfare contributions year after year while also continuing to provide better wages, pension contributions and working conditions,” Short said. “A more palatable solution has to be found, and that solution must involve our government in Washington.”
Short called for expansion of Medicare to include prescription drug coverage; closing “loopholes” in patent laws allowing name brand drug manufacturers to keep cheap generic equivalents off the market; better regulation of the health insurance industry; an end to the privatization of the Blue Cross networks; and improvements in Medicaid.