This article was corrected on April 2, 2003.
In a reflection of soaring costs, AFTRA’s health and retirement plan has set its first insurance premium at $250 per quarter — a whopping 67% higher than SAG’s new premium — starting in July.
AFTRA’s health plan will also impose a quarterly charge of $225 per partner and $120 per child. The plan has not released details of how much it would charge, other than confirming it was instituting a premium and bumping the four-quarter earnings qualification to $10,000 from $7,500 for work performed under contracts of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.
The likely result is that many eligible thesps and broadcasters will opt out of the plan. The Screen Actors Guild plan imposed its changes in January and nearly 10,000 SAG members — or 33% of those eligible — subsequently decided to desert the plan after the imposition of its first insurance premiums.
The WGA and DGA plans also have been forced to cut health benefits and boost eligibility. All the plans are jointly administered by reps of the respective unions and of the studios and networks.
The changes in the SAG and AFTRA plans are certain to be part of the upcoming debate on the question of merging SAG and AFTRA. Both sets of trustees have signed letters of intent recognizing “the imminent need” to cuts costs and the potential benefit of a merger. A Mercer & Co. feasibility study on merging thehealth plans will be presented to the national boards of SAG and AFTRA on April 12.
If SAG and AFTRA members vote to merge in June, the plans could begin to combine operations. The potential difficulties of merging the plans was a major factor in SAG members voting down a similar merger in 1999.