Unemployed Stage Actors to Face New Well being Insurance coverage Hurdle

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Unemployed Stage Actors to Face New Health Insurance Hurdle

Health insurance, which covers thousands of stage actors, is facing a huge financial burden due to the closure of the theater industry, making it difficult for them to qualify for coverage.

Currently, professional actors and stage managers must work 11 weeks to qualify for six months of coverage. However, beginning January 1, they must work 16 weeks to qualify for a similar coverage level.

Nonprofit and commercial theater producers contribute to the Health Fund when they employ unionized actors and stage managers. However, with theaters closed since March, these contributions, which account for 88 percent of the fund's revenue, have largely been suspended.

"The fact that we have no paid-up income could not have been foreseen," said Christopher Brockmeyer, a Broadway League executive who chairs the board of trustees of the fund, which is divided equally between representatives of the Actors' Equity Union and Producer is split. "We really have put together the only viable option to provide significant benefits to as many people as possible in these completely unprecedented circumstances."

Brockmeyer and his co-chair, Madeleine Fallon, said the fund, which currently provides coverage for around 6,700 stock members, is facing its biggest financial challenge since the height of the AIDS crisis. At that time the challenge was high costs for the fund; This time it's low income.

"Everyone is unemployed, everyone is in a panic, everyone has lost income and cannot do their art, and besides, their health fund is in crisis," said Fallon, who heads the union bloc on the board. "It has been an emotionally difficult journey, but we hope our members understand that we have found the plan that will give us the best chance to rebuild."

Under the new system, those who work for at least 12 weeks can qualify for lower tariffs with higher co-payments and more restrictions.

Actors' Equity, which appoints half of the fund's trustees but is otherwise an independent organization, opposes the changes.

"We all understand that there is no way out of the devastating loss of months of employer contributions across the country and no alternative but to make adjustments to the plan," union president Kate Shindle said in a statement. "But I believe the fund had both the commitment and the financial resources to take the time to make better decisions."

Shindle said the union has asked its members on the fund's board of trustees not to support the changes until they conduct a study of the potential impact on color union members, pregnant union members, and union members living outside of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

A similar battle is taking place in the film and television industries. Members of SAG-AFTRA, a union representing actors in this media, have protested loudly against changes in their health plan.

Stage actors are used to working on health care benefits – some take jobs for the express purpose of getting weeks to help them qualify for insurance. However, many actors do not work at all and cannot qualify no matter how many weeks it takes.

As a result, some are uninsured while others may be insured through Medicaid, COBRA, or the Affordable Care Act. The Actors Fund provides "health insurance advice" to those affected by an insurance loss.

The Equity-League Health Fund, available to unionized actors and stage managers working in commercial and nonprofit productions on Broadway, Off Broadway and in regional theaters across the country, announced the changes to its beneficiaries Thursday.

The fund started the pandemic with reserves of $ 120 million and has now declined to $ 91 million. Administrators estimate that if the eligibility and benefits rules remain unchanged, reserves will drop below $ 20 million by the middle of next year, and that they won't be able to pay any benefits at all by the end of next year.

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