Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anatomy of a Health & Welfare Fund: Medical and Dental Insurance

What you need to know about all health plans, with a special emphasis on the IATSE/Motion Picture Industry Health Plan:
First: the plan was established by the Basic Agreement; an agreement between the IATSE (the International union) and its West Coast Studio Locals on the one hand, and the AMPTP and its member companies (the Major Motion Picture Studios including, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Warners,Universal, Disney; and the major independents) on the other hand. The plan is governed by a board of trustees, half of whom are selected and appointed by the unions, and the other half of whom are selected and appointed by the employers. In the event the trustees can't agree on how an issue is to be handled, a neutral arbitrator decides. (This is mandatory under federal law.)
Second: contributions are made by the Employers into the trust fund. Contributions of One dollar forty-five and eight tenths cents per hour worked or guaranteed must be made by signatory companies. In addition, revenues derived from supplemental markets (sales of movies to television and home video, and sales of television programs in ancillary markets) in the amount of 9% of the Producer's accountable receipts.
Third: No contributions whatsoever are made by Employees covered. This is unusual in current economic times.
Fourth: Six hundred hours work(in a six month span) are required to become eligible for benefits. In subsequent six months periods, four hundred fifty hours work are required to remain eligible, but if you work less than that, you can carry forward excess hours from the previous period to satisfy the eligibility requirement.
Fifth: There is no deductible. In most plans, you have to pay the first $500 or $1000 of medical expenses before coverage kicks in.
Sixth: If you opt for the Industry Health Network of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, there is no copay (the amount you pay when you visit your doctor.) If you opt for Kaiser there is typically a $15 copayment, or $25 for certain specialists.
Seventh: Hospitalization: Is there a maximum length of time? In the industry plan, NO.
Eighth: Can I see a chiropractor? Yup.

As we've stated before, union dues run between $400 at the low end, to more than $1000 per year for classifications earning well in excess of $100,000 per year. We can't say for certain how much visual effects artists will pay in dues until we establish a special local, elect officers, and decide on things like offices, union representatives (and their salary), and infrastructure. All these matters are required by federal law to be disclosed by the Union in an annual filing to the US Department of Labor, with copies available to all members. That Department can investigate if they think something fishy is going on. And they can, and do, vigorously enforce the requirements of democracy and transparency.
We believe that visual effects supervisors and others employed directly by the Major Studios will be covered by the Industry Plan when they authorize us to represent them. (Even if the NLRB considers them supervisors, and the Studios try to thwart their desire for representation, we are confident that, in the end, they will become a part of the "bargaining unit".
Keep your questions coming!!!



  1. Great post! Some of the points you made have been changed by the plan:

    4: 600 hours is required for initial eligibility, but it only takes 400 hours to remain eligible in subsequent six-month periods.

    6: The Motion Picture Television Fund clinics will charge a $5 co-pay for any visit. Kaiser and HealthNet will charge $15 for any visit.

    We have further explanation of the health plan on this page of our site.

    Steve Kaplan
    The Animation Guild

  2. +1 guys.

    This is the kind of information VFX workers need from you. Clear, direct, to the point. Keep it coming! And maybe lead with it through media other than this blog.