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A high-profile class-action lawsuit filed by the late Ed Asner and a group of other actors against the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan and its board of trustees has reached a proposed settlement.
Under the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the court, senior members of the performers’ union who lost qualification for their prior healthcare coverage after the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan underwent restructuring in July of 2020 will receive “monetary relief worth $15 million,” with the caveat that that fee will also cover attorney costs, the Plan and the plaintiffs announced on Monday. Under the terms of the settlement, the Plan has also agreed to infuse up to $700,000 per year over the course of eight years into the Health Reimbursement Accounts of senior union members who lost health coverage as a result of the 2020 changes. The amount those performers receive into their accounts will be based on the residuals they earn.
The Plan also agreed to implement some new practices as a result of the settlement, which include instituting a formalized process by which the Plan will share its projections on future financial health with the union and hiring a consultant who will “explore the prospects of cost-cutting measures, beyond those that the Plan has consistently implemented since its inception, while ensuring benefits are protected,” the parties stated.
If the court accepts the settlement, the parties in the lawsuit will be required to publicize the terms of the agreement with all SAG-AFTRA Health Plan participants so that they can provide feedback. The court will then convene a final hearing that will determine whether it approves the settlement.
Asner — a former president of SAG-AFTRA — and a group of fellow performers sued the health plan and its trustees in December 2020, alleging that recent changes to coverage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic were disproportionately affecting Health Plan participants who were 65 years or older. According to the complaint, the restructuring raised the threshold for members that could receive coverage, increased premiums and further restricted spousal coverage.
The 2020 lawsuit noted that, as a result of the changes, 10 percent of the plan’s then 33,000 members were expected to lose coverage (including more than 8,000 seniors) as well as nine percent of dependents.
The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan has stated that the changes instituted in the summer of 2020 were “responding to continually skyrocketing healthcare costs” and “the unprecedented economic realities of a global pandemic.”
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