SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris is asking her members to urge Congress to expand the federal COBRA healthcare subsidy for workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are in danger of losing their health coverage.
“It is time that Congress pass the next federal relief package to protect the American worker from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 public health crisis,” she said tonight in a message to her members. “Performers are uniquely suffering from prolonged unemployment and loss of income and some will need federal assistance to keep their healthcare coverage.”
SAG-AFTRA members, she said, rely on the partial COBRA healthcare subsidy to maintain coverage under the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan if they don’t meet minimum earnings thresholds.
Congress members Robert Scott (D-VA), Congressman Steven Horsford (D-NV), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) are pushing for passage of H.R. 6514 – the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, which expands this federal assistance to cover the full cost of COBRA premiums for workers. Their legislation is modeled after a similar program enacted in 2009 during the Great Recession.
“Unfortunately, COBRA coverage can be prohibitively expensive for lower income workers as they must pay both the employer and employee share of a premium,” Carteris wrote. “The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act covers the full cost of COBRA premiums for workers who have been laid off, furloughed, or have been subject to reduced hours. This legislation will also support coverage for workers already hurt by a decrease in demand for goods and services, including entertainment workers.
“Contact your members of Congress and tell them to support the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act.
Here’s a sample letter she sent to members, accompanied by a SAG-AFTRA logo urging them to also “Vote Yes” on the union’s proposed new film and TV contract.
“I am writing to ask that Congress act and support H.R. 6514 (Scott VA-3), the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, which will prevent American workers from losing employer healthcare coverage during this COVID-19 public health crisis. This legislation will protect performers and other American workers who are suffering from prolonged periods of unemployment. This legislation will expand the existing COBRA subsidy to cover the full cost of premiums as COBRA can be prohibitively expensive for out-of-work families. Thank you for your consideration.”
Here is an image of the email SAG-AFTRA sent to members today: