The fund covering thousands of performers requires a minimum number of weeks worked.
Following the theater industry lockdown, stage actors who are already struggling with unemployment are now facing lost health insurance. The fund that provides them with medical coverage requires them to work a minimum number of weeks in order to qualify.
Professional actors and stage managers must work 11 weeks to qualify for six months of coverage.
Since the theater industry is shutdown, stage actors and managers cannot work in that industry at all, making it very difficult to qualify and forcing them into lost health insurance, said a New York Times report. Now, that fund is about to make the situation even more difficult for performers.
Starting on January 1, 2021, stage actors and managers will be required to work a minimum of 16 weeks in order to be able to qualify for comparable coverage to what they would have had before.
The primary issue is that about 88 percent of the revenue to the fund comes from non-profit and commercial theater producers when they employ ununionized stage managers and actors. However, since theaters were required to shut down in March and have remained closed since that time, the money going into the fund has mainly dried up.
Without the revenues upon which they rely, the fund is changing its rules leading to lost health insurance.
“The fact that we have no contributed income is something no one could have foreseen,” explained Broadway League executive Christopher Brockmeyer, who co-chairs the board of trustees for the fund. That board is divided evenly between representatives from the Actors’ Equity union and producers. “We really put together the only viable option to cover as many people as possible with meaningful benefits under these totally unprecedented circumstances.”
According to Brockmeyer and co-chair Madeleine Fallon, the current circumstance represents the fund’s greatest financial challenge since the peak of the AIDS crisis. At that time, the fund faced sudden and exceptionally high expenses. It currently provides health plans to about 6,700 Equity members but is not bringing in the majority of its revenues.
Under the new system, more actors risk lost health insurance because they will need to work more weeks in order to qualify for the same coverage they had before. Indeed, there is still some coverage available at a lower tier for those who work 12 weeks. This would include more restrictions and higher co-payments but would still require performers to find work despite the industry’s shut-down.