SAG-AFTRA to Extend Health Care Coverage for Members Who Lost Work Because of WGA Strike

Administrators of SAG-AFTRA’s health plan have made a big move to extend health care coverage for members who would otherwise lose their eligibility because of production shutdowns sparked by the Writers Guild of America strike.

SAG-AFTRA Health Plan board of trustees voted unanimously to extend coverage by one calendar quarter for some members who would be off the rolls as of Oct. 1.

“This will come as a great relief to our members,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. “I think it’s important that we never forget that we are in a contract negotiation with the AMPTP and under no circumstances should the health and well-being of members and their families ever be weaponized against them because of this strike. The [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] is long overdue to return to the negotiating table with a fresh perspective on their integral relationship with SAG-AFTRA members. The ball is in their court to do the right thing on behalf of performers and accept the inevitable paradigm shift with grace and generosity.”

To qualify for the extension, members must have at least $22,000 in reported earnings (or 85 alternative days) from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023. The drop in income or days-worked requirement “reflect a reduction that accounts for lesser earnings opportunities during May and June,” the union stated. The WGA strike began May 2. SAG-AFTRA has been out since July 14. 

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator, pointed the finger at Hollywood’s largest studios for the challenges facing many members who were not able to work enough to meet the minimum annual income threshold or days worked threshold to remain eligible for guild-sponsored health care. The trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan include an equal number of studio-appointed members and guild-appointed members.

“It’s a shame the studios and streamers have put so many SAG-AFTRA members in a position where they have to worry about basic necessities — like whether they will remain covered by their health plan,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “The Board of Trustees’ approval of this extension to some of those impacted by the AMPTP’s intransigence will help alleviate some of that anxiety. The solution we’re all hoping for, however, is that the AMPTP will return to the bargaining table.”

SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have not held any formal negotiations since July 12.

On July 30, the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans also extended eligibility for below-the-line workers who were unable to qualify for health benefits due to the strike. IATSE members must work at least 400 hours of work in a six-month period in order to keep eligibility. The trustees agreed to grant up to 201 hours to certain workers to keep them on the plan.

The industry benefit plans have suffered significant downturns in contributions due to the strike. In July, an MPIPHP trustee told Variety that the plan had received $200 million less in contributions in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

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