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Actors Sue SAG-AFTRA Health Plan on Changes in Insurance

In August, hundreds of actors excoriated the health plan of the United States Union of Professional Television and Film Actors for changes that would result in some members no longer being eligible for health insurance because they were unable to work during the pandemic.

Now 10 plan participants are suing, in a class action filing.

Seven-time Emmy winner, 91-year-old Ed Asner and nine other participants in the SAG-AFTRA health plan filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday, opposing benefit cuts and changes eligibility conditions in the plan which are to come into effect on January 1. The SAG-AFTRA health plan and its trustees are named as defendants.

Mr. Asner, who is the principal applicant, is a past president of SAG and a current member of the SAG-AFTRA National Council. He will lose coverage when the changes take effect because he will not meet the new allowable pay threshold, according to the lawsuit, which claims the cuts “unfairly and illegally” discriminate on the basis of age. (Members 65 or older will no longer be allowed to use their residual income to qualify for the new threshold if they are receiving a union pension.)

The lawsuit alleges two counts of breach of fiduciary duty, and one count each of participating in a prohibited transaction and failing to disclose important information to plan members.

“Much less drastic and fair adjustments were available for a one-time event like Covid-19,” according to the lawsuit.

Many artists are facing a loss of health care coverage at a time when film jobs are scarce and the live theater is almost completely closed. The health insurance fund that covers performers announced changes in October that increased the number of weeks they would need to work to qualify for coverage, and Local 802, the musicians’ union, launched a #SaveNYCMusicians campaign aimed at strengthening the health of the union. fund, financed by contributions from employers.

The lawsuit seeks financial damages, wrestles control of the health plan from the trustees, and appoints an “independent trustee” to manage it and possibly reverse the changes.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen high profile actors, including Mark Hamill, Whoopi Goldberg and Morgan Freeman, criticized upcoming benefit cuts for the elderly in a video posted by the SOS Health Plan, a group of members. of the SAG-AFTRA opposed to health. Plan for changes.

“Why isn’t the union fighting for me?” Ms. Goldberg asks in the video. “I have contributed to the health plan for my entire career,” she said, adding that she was very angry.

A spokesperson for the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

In August, the health plan told members in an email that it would increase the eligibility floor for those earning $ 25,950 per year, from $ 18,040 as of Jan. 1, and that premiums would also increase. According to the email, the changes responded to projected deficits of $ 141 million this year and $ 83 million in 2021.

Nearly 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on the health plan to reverse the changes.

“All American actors are stranded right now,” John E. Brady, a film, television and advertising actor who has been a union member for more than 30 years, told The Times in August.

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