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AFTRA opposes healthcare taxes

Union weighs in on Senate's 'Cadillac' plans

The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has weighed in on the healthcare debate, coming out against taxing high-end insurance plans.

AFTRA sent letters Friday to President Obama, Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The performers union opposes to the Senate version, which would impose a 40% tax on the so-called “Cadillac” employer-provided insurance plans, and backs the House plan for a 5.4% surtax on couples earning at least $1 million annually.

Obama has indicated he supports the Senate plan, which is widely opposed by unions. SAG, the two branches of the WGA and the Teamsters jointly announced their opposition in November.

In the letter, AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and president Roberta Reardon said the tax in the Senate bill would hurt middle class and low wage working union members that have negotiated over the years for health benefits at the expense of higher wages to keep pace with the high cost of healthcare.

Many of our members struggle to earn a middle-class living, a struggle that has been exacerbated by the decline in our economy, as well as the devastating crashes of the investment market at the beginning and end of the last decade,” the duo said. “By our estimate, a tax of this nature would cost the AFTRA Health Plan millions of dollars annually beginning in 2013, which could result in benefit cuts.”

AFTRA also asked its members to contact lawmakers about the tax — in a form letter for the members to do so — and estimated that the tax would cost the AFTRA Health Plan $6.4 million in 2013.

The goal of healthcare reform is to make it both accessible and affordable for average Americans,” the letter also said. “A tax like this would defeat that goal. Simply put, a tax on middle-class Americans’ health benefits is the wrong way to finance healthcare reform.”

As with the SAG, DGA and WGA health and pension plans, the AFTRA health and retirement funds are separate entities from AFTRA and operated jointly by trustees representing AFTRA and the industry.

Currently, employers pay 14% (8.5% to health, 5.5% to pension) for the DGA, 14.5% (8.5% health, 6% pension) for the WGA, 15% (9.25%, 5.75%) for SAG and 15% (9.75%, 5.25%) for AFTRA on top of every dollar of compensation into the pension and health plans.

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