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SAG-AFTRA’s David White: Health Plans Moving Closer to Merging

The SAG and AFTRA health plans have moved closer to combining into a single plan, according to SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White.

The plans remain separate more than three years after members of SAG and AFTRA overwhelmingly voted to merge the unions. Merger supporters asserted in the run-up to the vote that the merging would enable the two health plans to become one, making coverage more available to members.

White said in an email sent Friday to national board members that “significant progress” had been made toward that goal.

The plans are currently overseen by representatives of the union and the industry. Members’ earnings are designated for either the SAG plan or the AFTRA plan — depending on which union had jurisdiction over the TV program prior to the merger — in order to determine whether the members meet the minimum earnings thresholds necessary to qualify for coverage.

Currently, there is some combined earnings eligibility for qualification for the SAG plan, announced in 2013. White’s  message did not go into detail.

“Although the detailed process of establishing a combined health plan for all of our participants has been challenging, I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress toward our objective,” White said. “Among other points, we are engaged in discussion with management on the final design of the combined health plan. Based on these discussions, the structure of the new plan will closely resemble the structure of the SAG plan, with at least two levels of benefits (e.g., Plan I and Plan II) providing coverage for both members and their qualified family members.”

He also said, “Eligibility for each tier will depend on the level of a member’s covered earnings (as it does today) and the various alternate routes for eligibility for particular groups or individuals will continue as they currently exist for both the SAG and AFTRA plans.”

Currently, a member has to earn $30,750 in four quarters to qualify for SAG Plan I. SAG Plan II requires $15,100 in covered earnings, or various alternate methods. The AFTRA structure requires $10,000 in covered earnings for individual coverage and $30,000 for a family plan.

“Our goal is to achieve the best mix of available benefits for participants and the long-term financial viability of the new plan,” said White in the email. “Importantly, union and management trustees of both plans recognize the singular importance of this merger and are meeting regularly to finalize the key decisions and finer details of this process.”

White is a member of both plans’ boards of trustees. The plans are legally separate from each other and from the union.

White said additional details on the health plan merger would be announced at the SAG-AFTRA board’s next meeting, which is set for July 11.

News was first reported by THR.com.

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