October 6, 2020

My letter to my Senators regarding the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:53 pm by chavisory

I have a much more fun post in progress, but in the meantime–I don’t know how many of my readers are in the same boat or know what’s going on, but members of AEA found out this week that our health plan (which is actually provided through a separate organization, the Equity-League Benefit Funds) is being restructured in such a way as to make it even harder than it was to qualify for coverage, during a time in which very few of us have any access to employment with which to qualify at all. COBRA prices are prohibitively expensive, and without some kind of assistance, many more of us than have already lost our insurance are going to do so at the end of December this year. I’m writing my Senators to urge them again to work to pass the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act in light of these developments.

Feel free to use this letter as an example if this is an issue you’re contacting your own Senators about.

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Dear Senator Schumer,

I’ve written to you before about the importance of the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act to provide 100% COBRA subsidies to workers displaced by the pandemic and my hope that you will fight for the passage of that bill in the Senate. I’m writing to you now about an emerging situation I don’t know if you’re aware of that I think highlights why the bill is still as important now as it ever was, particularly for New Yorkers.

As an off-Broadway stage manager, I’m a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional stage actors and stage managers. This past week, AEA members who earn our health insurance through the Equity-League Health Fund by accruing work weeks, learned that our health plan is being restructured in such a way that not only will we be paying higher premiums for fewer benefits, which is somewhat to be expected as the Fund has virtually no employer contributions coming in right now, but it is about to become even more difficult than it was before the shutdown to qualify for coverage in the first place and to maintain consistent coverage–during a time when due to continued closures of indoor performance venues, the vast majority of us have little to no ability to earn work weeks.

Some of us, myself included, are currently on a stop-gap Cigna Silver plan that was initially offered in the hopes of bridging us through the shutdown, but we only have access to this option through December of this year.

As they are, COBRA premiums are simply unaffordable, costing hundreds of dollars more per month than my rent.

While I’m aware of my theoretical options under the ACA, I have never once succeeded in completing the application for a marketplace plan, even with the assistance of a navigator, because it is so badly set up to take my work situation into account.

I have been immensely fortunate to be able to maintain my insurance up to this point despite an almost total lack of work since mid-March, but without some kind of accommodation or assistance, I am extraordinarily unlikely to be able to maintain continuity of coverage, affordably or at all, beyond the end of this year. Many of New York’s arts workers are in similar or even more desperate situations than this, including those with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or autoimmune conditions that require regular medication they will not be able to afford out of pocket. The COBRA subsidy under the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act would provide a crucial protection, both economically and to our physical health, for workers like me in New York until we are free to seek full employment in our industry again.

Sincerely, your constituent,
(My name)