Strike Relief: Film Workers Will Get Extra Hours to Keep Health Insurance

Film workers who have been unemployed during the strike will get some help in maintaining their health insurance, the industry plan announced Monday.

The Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans will extend eligibility to certain participants who otherwise would not have enough hours to qualify for benefits.

The MPIPHP also announced that members will be able to take a one-time “hardship withdrawal” from their defined-contributed retirement plans. The withdrawal cap is 20% of the balance, up to $20,000.

The industry plans took similar steps during the COVID-19 pandemic, when workers were also unable to work enough hours to meet the typical eligibility thresholds.

The MPIPHP funds have been affected by the strike, according to Mike Miller, vice president in charge of the West Coast office of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Members recorded 18 million fewer hours of work through mid-July, compared to the same period in 2022, which translates to a drop of more than $200 million in contributions, Miller said.

Ordinarily, participants must work 400 hours in a six-month period to qualify for health insurance. Members whose qualifying period expired on July 22 will be credited up to 201 hours to reach that threshold.

The plans also elected to credit additional hours for workers whose periods ended on June 24 and May 20. Those workers will receive up to 134 and 67 hours, respectively.

“MPIHP is in the process of identifying eligible participants and implementing the credit/grant of hours,” the plan CEO, David Asplund, said in a message to union business agents on Monday. “Participants who are eligible will receive a letter informing them of the hours that have been credited/granted.”

In order to qualify for the grant of hours, members must have been actively enrolled prior to the current benefit period.

The Writers Guild of America strike began on May 2, shuttering most TV production and some film production. The SAG-AFTRA strike followed on July 14, shutting down all remaining scripted production, with the exception of about 100 indie projects.

The Entertainment Community Fund and the Motion Picture & Television Fund have been involved in helping members who have already lost health coverage. Members have been directed to COBRA and the Covered California plans.

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