Trustees to waive payments for three months

Trustees of the Directors Guild of America’s health plan have moved to help DGA members who lost eligibility for health care coverage as a result of the 100-day writers strike.

DGA said Friday that trustees of the DGA-Producer Health Plan has agreed to waive for three months the COBRA payments for the 200 or so members whose health care coverage is set to end on April 1.

Under the DGA health plan, members must meet minimum earnings requirements over a 12-month period to be eligible for health care under the DGA plan. Although the writers strike ended Feb. 12, some DGA members will have a hard time meeting the earnings threshold for the second quarter period beginning April 1 and probably for the third quarter period beginning July 1.

For 2008, DGA members are required to earn $32,400 to be eligible for health care coverage through the DGA-Producers plan. In 2007, the earnings threshold was $31,400.

If members lose eligibility, they can opt to transition to COBRA plan coverage for 18 months, but at a monthly fee of about $500 for an individual and $1,500 for a family. DGA-Producer Plan trustees have voted to waive those fees for three months for members affected by the WGA strike that shut down much of Hollywood from early November through the middle of last month.

Some members of the Writers Guild were also in danger of losing health plan eligibility, but the WGA was able to negotiate extensions for those members as part of the master contract agreement reached last month.

“Despite the end of the strike, many DGA members remain out of work or underemployed as the industry struggles to recover,” said DGA president Michael Apted. “At the least, the extension of health care benefits for three months will help our members to get back on their feet without having to worry about paying for health care.”

The DGA said it would continue to monitor the eligibility status of members and consider whether additional COBRA fee waivers would be warranted.

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