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Fulfilling one of the major, if long in coming, promises of the 2012 SAG/AFTRA merger, the two union health plans’ boards of trustees have voted to merge effective Jan. 1, 2017, according to an email sent Wednesday morning from SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White to union board members.
The new plan, which will cover 65,000 members and dependents, will be structured similarly to the existing SAG plan, White said, with two plan options (Plan I and Plan II).
“This is incredibly good news for all of our members and particularly those who have had to contend with the debilitating reality of having their earnings split between two separate health plans,” White said in the email. “For many, this meant not reaching the minimum earnings threshold to qualify for participation in either plan.”
He added, “Having a single, merged health plan will not only end this problem, but will also strengthen the overall financial health and long-term sustainability of the health plan for all eligible members.”
The plans have created a new website, sagaftrahealth.org, with more information and comparison charts. In general, the new Plan I is similar to SAG Plan I, while Plan II has slightly less generous benefits than SAG Plan II. Premiums are unchanged. Earned eligibility thresholds — the amount that a working performer has to earn to qualify for insurance — will increase by $1,000, while senior eligibility is tightened, subject to a variety of grandfathering provisions. A detailed comparison with the AFTRA plans is harder to summarize. The new plan will use the Anthem Blue Cross PPO network and UCLA Entertainment Industry Medical Group, as does the current SAG plan.
“The successful merger of these plans would not have been possible if we hadn’t united SAG and AFTRA first,” said union president Gabrielle Carteris in a SAG-AFTRA press release. “Our members deserve one outstanding health plan and this historic agreement ensures that all earnings under our contracts now credit to a single health plan.”
The new plan website also notes that the merger “expands the contribution base of both funds, reduces per capita administrative expenses, and enhances the long-term sustainability of the funds.”
The union listed highlights of the new plan as including:
* Two coverage tiers: Plan I and Plan II
* Earnings requirement for Plan I coverage at $33,000
* Earnings requirement for Plan II coverage at $17,000
* Alternative qualifying methods, including Age and Service and Days Worked
* Expedited broadcast station staff eligibility (subject to the new earnings thresholds)
* Continuation of existing rules for covered sound recording roster artists and newly signed royalty artists (under Plan II of the new plan)
* Family coverage under both Plan I and Plan II
* Mental health and substance abuse coverage will now be offered in both Plan I and II
* Medical and hospital provider network will be Anthem Blue Cross
* Comprehensive dental coverage offered through Delta Dental
* Prescription drug benefits administered by Express Scripts
* Vision benefits in Plan I through Vision Service Plan
* Premiums will mirror those of the current SAG Health Plan
The Jan. 1, 2017, merger date was not altogether unexpected, in light of a trustee’s comment in March, reported exclusively by The Hollywood Reporter, that “there is an expectation that [health plan merger] will be complete as of January next year.”
The SAG and AFTRA pension plans remain separate at this time.
Informational sessions with representatives from the health plan are planned for SAG-AFTRA members on the following dates.
* Monday, June 20, 5-7 p.m. PT, Los Angeles
* Thursday, June 23, 1:30–3:30 p.m. ET, New York
* Wednesday, July 6, 4-6 p.m. PT, Webinar for locals outside L.A. and NY
* Monday, July 11, 7-9 p.m. PT, Los Angeles
* Wednesday, July 13, 7-9 p.m. ET, New York
Details and RSVP information will be available on SAGAFTRA.org.
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