|AHIRC (Artist Health Information Resource Center) To Expand Services in Los Angeles|
The Actors Health Information Resource Center, sponsored by the Actors Fund, will expand its activities in Los Angeles to offer more services to entertainment union members. The announcement was made following a highly-successful two-day seminar conducted by Actors' Fund officials in January.
"Securing quality health insurance is a critical issue that deeply affects the lives of our colleagues, their families and artists of all disciplines, for whom lack of insurance can lead to inferior health care and ruinous debt," said Joseph Benincasa, Executive Director of The Actors Fund. He noted that California presents particular difficulties in obtaining health insurance since state law does not mandate that insurers accept all applicants. "In addition, premiums in California can be extremely high for anyone middle-aged or older or who has any type of health problem. By expanding our AHIRC program with the new West Coast office, we will work to substantially increase the number of insured among entertainment professionals there."
Plans call for the office to run workshops for the uninsured and under-insured, provide in-person and telephone counseling, facilitate enrollment in private and government-subsidized health plans and organize industry advocacy and lobbying for expansion of access to health insurance and health care. It will also research and update Internet resources for the AHIRC Website.
AEA Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, an Actors' Fund Trustee who oversees the AHIRC Committee, said that the two-day workshops in Los Angeles were a "big success."
Jim Brown, Managing Director AHIRC, conducted training on the expanded AHIRC website at the Cagney Room in the Screen Actors Guild's Los Angeles office on January 15 and 17. The two three-hour sessions were attended by 60 people representing more than 20 entertainment industry unions and organizations, including: AEA (Actors' Equity Association), AFM (American Federation of Musicians), AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), DGA (Directors' Guild of America), SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and many other participants. The focus of the sessions was on getting health insurance and accessing health care specifically in the state of California, and using the internet-based AHIRC resources to do this effectively and efficiently. A full range of topics were covered, such as rights and protections in the state, current premium rates, benefit comparisons, government programs, free and sliding-scale clinics, financial assistance for medical bills, and on-going advocacy efforts and legislation.
Benincasa also announced the Actors' Fund had been awarded a $50,000 grant from the SAG Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund to assist SAG members who live east of the Mississippi with payments for COBRA, the extension of their union health plans. The moves come a month after the SAG Foundation and the Motion Picture & Television Fund launched an emergency financial assistance program for California SAG members who lose coverage.
Guild members were hit at the start of this year with benefit cuts and tightened eligibility for participants in the SAG-producers health plan. Skyrocketing medical costs have battered the actors' health care plan, jointly administered by SAG and the Hollywood studios, and forced trustees to aggressively tighten eligibility and cut benefits for the second time in two years.
For more information, visit the AHIRC page on the Actors' Fund website, At www.actorsfund.org/ahirc.