Entertainment Industry Health Care Coalition To Lobby for COBRA Subsidy

Albany Lobby Day Is Planned For May 8th

Volume CI, No. 5May, 2001

Local 802 members will have an opportunity to campaign for expanded health insurance coverage for entertainment industry workers on May 8, by taking part in a lobby day in Albany.

The trip is being organized by the coalition of performing artists’ unions that won expansion of the Healthy New York program to provide greater access to low-cost coverage for members of our industry. (Reports appeared the November and December issues of Allegro.)

“We are looking for people to go up to Albany with us – particularly people who have a story to tell about the difficulty they have encountered in obtaining and keeping quality, affordable insurance,” said Jim Brown of the Actors’ Health Insurance Resource Center. “Our lobbying will focus on a proposal that would have the state subsidize COBRA payments for people in the entertainment industry by paying half of the premium for up to 12 months.”

The measure is being introduced by Roy Goodman in the State Senate and Richard Brodsky in the Assembly. Its aim is to help people bridge the periods when they are ineligible for an employer or union-based plan, and prevent costly gaps in health insurance coverage.

The coalition has developed a series of initiatives to expand the availability of affordable health insurance to entertainment workers. The first step, achieved last year, was to make it easier for those who had lost eligibility for union group plans to qualify for the Healthy New York program. The COBRA proposal is the second step.

“Our third step,” Brown told Allegro, “will be an alternate Healthy New York plan which is directly aimed at members of the entertainment industry.” Two important features will be inclusion of a mental health benefit, which is not provided by the current program, and a considerably higher maximum income level.

The coalition has also been working to have the Actors’ Fund designated as an enrollment center for various insurance programs for the entertainment community. Brown said he expects the proposal to receive funding from New York State soon. “We’ll have all the forms, and people here who can help individuals fill them out,” he said. “We do some of that already, over the phone and through the Actors’ Health Insurance Resource Center. But this will be much more hands on.”

The union coalition’s effort was initiated and coordinated by the Actors’ Fund of America., It includes Local 802, Actors Equity, Local 1 and the other New York IATSE locals, SAG, AFTRA, NABET, AGMA, AGVA, SSDC, the Writers Guild East and the Directors Guild East.

If you would like to take part in the May 8 lobby or you need more information, call 802 Legislative Director Heather Beaudoin at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.