More than 11,400 people have asked trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan to overturn recently announced changes that will cut eligibility for the plan on Jan. 1.
The health plan announced in an email it sent to members on Aug. 12 that it would raise the earnings floor for eligibility from those earning $18,040 a year to $25,950, effective Jan. 1. Trustees said that without restructuring, the plan is projecting a deficit of $141 million this year and $83 million in 2021.
“The trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan have taken a difficult but necessary action to address financial deficits facing the plan,” the plan said. “By 2024, the Health Plan is projected to run out of reserves. We must prevent this from happening.”
“We understand that no one welcomes the disruption of changing health coverage — even if similar, less costly alternatives are available — but it’s important to note that those participants who lose Plan coverage may still have good, affordable health insurance options,” the email also said.
But the changes to the plan also come with many of SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 members unable to generate earnings since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March and caused virtually all productions to halt. The health plan is administered by a board comprised of equal numbers of trustees of the union and the employers.
The petition said that in addition to the increase in the earnings threshold, premiums will see a “huge” increase — doubled for most.
It also said the changes will force retirees to give up their health insurance because residuals will no longer count toward the $25,950 needed for insurance if they are retired and taking pension. Additionally, insurance will no longer be available to spouses if their employers offer any kind of plan.
“These are just a few of the horrendous changes being made with barely FIVE MONTHS notice in the middle of a global pandemic when there is no work to be had,” the petition concluded. “This is putting SAG/AFTRA members and their families lives in danger. We must put pressure on the health plan union and producer trustees to overturn these changes immediately.”