SAG Health Plan Sets Member Meetings Following Protests

In an extraordinary move, the SAG-Producers Health Plan has scheduled two meetings about plan changes that have provoked strong negative reactions among those taking early retirement.

SAG-AFTRA members received notification that a Nov. 23 meeting would be held at union headquarters in Los Angeles for the plan staff to “further explain” the changes and other issues related to health care. Another meeting will be held in December.

High-profile national board members Frances Fisher and Patricia Richardson launched a protest last month to the trustees’ decision for the plan — overseen by reps of the performers union and management — to eliminate the self-pay option for health insurance premiums for members who have taken early retirement. That decision, announced in October, will go into effect at the end of the year.

The plan, which covers about 40,000 members and dependents, has asserted that the self-pay option was no longer necessary because of the availability of “high-quality, affordable coverage” through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. Currently, self-pay coverage ranges from $492 to $584 monthly for an individual and $1,348 to $1,596 monthly for an individual plus two dependents.

Zane Lasky, a 40-year member with credits dating back to “The Tony Randall Show,” told Variety that members were given no warning about the change — making it difficult to find alternate coverage by the end of the year. “How this has been handled is unconscionable,” he added.

Fisher noted that hundreds of SAG performers opted for early retirement and accepted less money from their pension plan partly because they were assured they would be able to self-pay for health insurance between the ages of 55-65. Fisher asserted that the high cost of living in California and New York and limits on subsidies have impaired the ability of members to find new insurance.

A spokeswoman for the plan has not responded to requests for comment.

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