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December 20, 2002

Actors' Equity Poised to Join National Coalition for Health Care

"Reflects Deep Concerns About Nation's Health Care Crisis," Says Eisenberg

Actors' Equity is ready to join the National Coalition for Health Care, a non-profit, non-partisan representative alliance working to improve America's health care system. At its meeting on December 17th, the Council heard a presentation by Mark Goldberg, the Coalition's Senior Vice President for Strategy, Legislation and Policy Research, who reported that the Coalition has 96 member groups, including corporations, labor unions, small business, and the nation's major religious, consumer, and health care provider organizations. SAG, AFTRA and IATSE have joined the Coalition.

The National Coalition for Health Care has five principle goals: health insurance for all, improved quality of care, cost containment, equitable financing, and simplified administration. The Coalition released a report called A Perfect Storm: The Confluence of Forces Affecting Health Care Coverage, which warned about the catastrophic erosion of health-care coverage in the United States due to rapidly-rising health insurance premiums and increased unemployment caused by the current economic downturn.

Equity's Executive Director, Alan Eisenberg, said the presentation was "comprehensive, convincing and sobering. There was no doubt in anyone's mind about the serious nature of the crisis, and the urgent need to advocate for change." Some of the highlights of the presentation were:

According to the most recent US Census, 41.2 million Americans have no health coverage; 6 million more may lose their coverage due to rising premiums and unemployment;

The average annual premium for family coverage is expected to increase from $7,053 in 2001 to $9,181 in 2003 and will soon top $10,000. Health insurance premiums rose 11.1% in 2002, after inflation, compared with 5.1% in 1993 when the Clinton administration first attempted to address the issue;

With staggering costs, unions, retirement systems and corporations are being forced to reduce coverage. Many employers are shifting health care costs to their employees, impacting wages and other benefits;

Several Councilors were concerned that the Coalition's resolutely non-partisan status would make it difficult to be effective on such a highly partisan issue. Mr. Goldberg replied that his group felt that taking a non-partisan stand was in fact the most effective way to garner the broadest base of support for the Coalition's goals.

Faced with its own financial crisis, the Board of Trustees of the Equity-League Health Trust Fund recently announced changes to the Indemnity Health Plan starting in July, 2003, including an increase in the major medical deductible, and a change in the eligibility period. Equity, along with many other unions, is also pushing for legislation to extend COBRA benefits to eligible performers in the entertainment industry in NY State.

In recent negotiations, Equity has attempted to achieve increases in health payments to support our health plan. "Obviously, rising health care costs are impacting upon every contract, and we are deeply concerned," said Eisenberg. The Council voted overwhelmingly to join the Coalition, pending the resolution of member fees.

For more information about the National Coalition for Heath Care, visit www.nchc.org.