The Producers’ Health Benefits Plan unveiled a sweeping relief package today in response to the coronavirus shutdown of the commercial production and post-production industry.
“These measures will ensure that covered freelance employees are not at risk of losing their health benefits during this crisis; allows employers the option to temporarily insure laid off employees; and offers discounted premiums to those who may lose employer-paid coverage,” said the PHBP, which covers some 4,000 commercial workers and their families with more than 200 participating employers who are members of the Association of Commercial Producers.
The AICP, the trade association that founded the Plan, says its members account for 85% of all domestic commercials aired nationally and on all media platforms. The group said recently that advertisers and their ad agencies owe production and post-production companies more than $200 million for work on commercial shoots that were completed but not paid for when work abruptly halted because of the coronavirus shutdown.
“PHBP’s primary reason for being is the health and welfare of the commercial industry’s freelancers and staff, and the production and post companies that employ them,” said PHBP executive director Sean Cooley. “We’ve taken measures today to ensure our freelance population does not lose coverage due to the sudden halt of production, as well as offering financial relief by temporarily waiving all monthly fees such as dependent coverage costs.
“As our member employers grapple with the financial effects of the current crisis,” he added, “the PHBP is allowing full time coverage for staff that might be shifted to part time, and the ability to keep laid off employees on the employer’s medical plan. While layoffs by member employers have yet to materialize on a large scale, the Board of Trustees wants to be proactive so production and post companies can better assess all options regarding the continued coverage of their staff employees.”
The Plan also is discounting monthly COBRA premiums, the self-paid continuation coverage offered to employees no longer covered on an employer’s Plan. “Whether you’re a recently laid off staff employee or a freelancer working hard to requalify for freelance coverage, this is huge,” Cooley said.
The plan’s Board of Trustees, he said, “will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our course of action as required for prudent governance and the well-being of our membership.”
Highlights of the relief package, which are effective immediately, include:
Eligibility for Freelancers: All qualification periods will be extended three (3) months. This effectively extends coverage for three months for all currently covered Freelancers to prevent a lapse in coverage. Additionally, all recurring monthly fees will be waived for this period, including premium co-shares for dependent coverage.
Furloughed or Laid off Staff Employees at PHBP-participating companies: PHBP will allow any furloughed or laid off covered staff employee to remain on their employer’s staff coverage (so long as the employer continues premium payments) through May 31, 2020.
Reduced Hours of Full-time Staff Employees: PHBP will allow any currently covered full-time employee whose hours are reduced to part-time status with the same employer to remain on their employer’s staff coverage for April, May and June 2020; this temporarily waives the Plan rule that only full-time employees are eligible for staff coverage.
COBRA Continuation Coverage: PHBP will apply a 20% discount on the medical only portion of COBRA costs. This discount applies to the cost of COBRA coverage in April, May and June 2020, and includes all staff employees who may be laid off as well as those staff and freelance employees already on COBRA coverage.
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