Actors’ Equity praised the introduction of a new bill that would offer 100% COBRA health insurance subsidies to workers who have lost coverage during the pandemic.
The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, introduced Thursday by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and 13 other Democrats, would cover the monthly premium cost of employer-based health plans. Equity and other theatrical unions have been pushing for a COBRA subsidy as industry members continue to lose coverage each month of the shutdown.
The HEROES Act, the Democrats’ latest coronavirus relief package, had included a COBRA subsidy, but has not moved forward in the Senate.
“While the HEROES Act remains shamefully stalled in the Senate because Mitch McConnell would rather ram through a Supreme Court nominee, we are grateful for the leadership of Senators Durbin and Cortez Masto. They understand how important health care is for all workers, especially those in the arts industry,” Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity, said in a press release.
Actors’ Equity was one of 20 unions, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, to endorse the bill.
Theatrical union health coverage is typically supported by employer contributions and earned based on the number of weeks worked. Six months into the shutdown of Broadway theaters, this means that health funds are growing slimmer and union members are losing coverage as they’re unable to meet the needed work weeks.
The Equity-League Health Fund has introduced a new medical plan with a $250 premium for members who lost coverage on June 1 or July 1 or who have earned at least nine weeks toward eligibility. To make up for the loss of employer contributions, the health fund raised the quarterly premium to $300 from $100.