Today was Disney Animation Studios Day (again), with me going room to room with IA reps. The big issue that came up with several people was the changes negotiated for benefits in the newer Basic Agreement, specifically The Motion Picture Industry Health Plan.
They were concerned with the changes in the number of hours needed to qualify. More than concerned, actually. More like way unhappy ...
The first set of blue letters up above link to a detailed breakdown of the benefits package, but allow me to summarize:
* Higher doctor and hospital charges for participants going out of network.
* Somewhat higher charges ($5-$15) for prescription drugs.
* A $5 fee for visits to the Motion Picture and Television Fund clinics (up from $0).
These are the broad brush strokes. The problem was, a $500 million shortfall* stared the Health Plan in the face, and the bargaining parties had to find a way to plug that big hole.
The solution turned out to be:
1) Hundred of millions of additional bucks from the companies,
2) A Health Plan redesign (in other words, cuts),
3) Reducing the Plan reserves by a few months,
4) Upping the number of qualifying hours for the Health Plan.
That last item -- the qualifying hours component -- has kicked up controversy. Some members would prefer co-pays as the method for closing the Health Plan's funding gap,. Moving through the first floor of the hat building, members gave us an earful about it.
We answered that there were no great solutions, only a choice of unappealing ones. And the union representatives participating in the contract negotiations told the I.A. that raising the threshhold of qualifying hours to 400 from 300, was preferable to co-pays for health insurance.
Like I say, not the most wonderful of outcomes, but have you noticed we're not living in the best of times?
* The shortfall came about due to investment losses in the Plan trust funds, a decline in residuals, a lengthy writers' strike, and sharply rising health care costs.