Monday, August 03, 2009

Back In Harness

Returning to work after Florida, I got a dose of some of the problems I left behind.

At one studio where TAG had filed a grievance over work cuts on behalf of several employees before I left for the IA convention, the same employees (two weeks later) said to me:

"You know, everybody around here is having their work weeks reduced, not just us. Other artists are getting squeezed, and we're happy we still have jobs ... even if we're on hiatus longer.

"Pull the grievance."

So I did.

The reality right now is most people are hunkered down, rocking the boat as little as possible, even when they're ticked off.  But people are still complaining to TAG, and one of the things they're complaining about is changes in the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, specifically:

After August 1, 2009, all Active and Retired Participants who have the Medco prescription benefit will be able to fill a maintenance medication prescription twice at a retail pharmacy, but will thereafter be required to use the “Medco By Mail” mail order service for continued fills. On the third retail purchase, the pharmacy will charge the patient 100% of the cost for the medication

One caller told us: "I don't like buying prescriptions by mail, don't feel comfortable, and now I don't have a choice ..."

The problem is, health plans across the country are facing 9-12% annual cost hikes, and the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, as big and well-funded as it is, is no exception. Which is the reason why there have been "redesigns" of MPI health coverage. ("Redesign" is the technical name for cost shifting.)

For instance, prescription drugs charges have gone up $5-$40, out-of network charges have have been hiked, and office visits to physicians are now more expensive*. None of these things have triggered joy in participants' hearts, but "up" is the direction of U.S. health costs the last fifty or so years, one of the reasons the country is now in kind of a crisis (maybe you've read about it.).

Last of all. I found out today from the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan that if you are the surviving spouse of a Plan participant who has qualified for a monthly annuity (the "Defined Benefit" part of the Plan) you are entitled to a 50% "survivors' benefit."

But not if you are a spouse who is same sex.

For the record, I think this stinks. If you're legally married, then you're legally married. Unfortunately the Pension Plan directors, in their wisdom, have a different opinion. They follow Federal ... rather than state law.

But I still think it stinks.

* I'll be discussing these things in some detail at tomorrow's General Membership Meeting.


Anonymous said...

Tell them to get comfortable with mail-order pharmacy.

My boyfriend was a kidney transplant patient and getting his life-or-death, absolutely-had-to-have-them meds by mail was never a problem.

Trying to get them from a local pharmacy... that was a problem.

Better still, this union should be organizing to actively support legislation to reform drug pricing and healthcare cost in general.

Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as a same sex spouse. At least in those states in this country whose citizens were allowed to vote on the idea (thankfully, my state was one of them). I have no interest in a labor union or any other group which further legitimizes something that's both an outrage and a joke. Hooray for the pension plan. More pension plans, including my own, should follow suit.

Anonymous said...

Over 18,000 gay couples married in CA when it was legal, many of whom live in this state and work in the motion picture industry. Without them and other family members, the industry would be DOA. And the pension directors know it.

Way to show gratitude and simple fairness to those who keep the industry profitable. They paid into the system like everyone else; their survivors should continue receiving benefits like their hetero counterparts.

If those members took a hike and switched to another industry, the pension would dry up along with the rest of MPI. Marriage is marriage whether or not the federal government recognizes it. MPI leadership should be ashamed of themselves.

rufus said...

gay rights as a unit, is the canary in the mineshaft of freedom.

the last poster sounds like he belongs in Germany circa 1930's


r said...

sorry, I meant the poster at 9:08


Anonymous said...

Whereas rufus sounds like he belongs in Gomarrah circa 1550 B.C.

Or present-day San Francisco.

My 2 Cents said...

It's stealing, plain and simple. Sex has nothing, or should have nothing to do with it. The pension fund administrators are opportunistically using a controversial issue as pretext to violate the legal contract they have with the union membership. Death benefits are actually part of pension benefits. When you qualify for one, you qualify for the other. If you have earned the benefit, you have the implicit right to name the beneficiary of your choice. Who or what that beneficiary is is, or should be, irrelevant.

If you have earned the death benefit, having it taken away is robbery and a violation of the contract. If those affected sue, I'm certain they will win.

Steve Hulett said...

There's no such thing as a same sex spouse. At least in those states in this country whose citizens were allowed to vote on the idea (thankfully, my state was one of them).

Wait a few years ... and states will be voting in a way you don't like.

It's all arbitrary, anon. Utah was defiantly polygamous until the 1890s. Most people disliked this. Mormons thought it was fine, but had to change their position due to the power of the Feds.

But why do you care who gets married? Afraid it'll ruin it for the rest of us?

Anonymous said...

Whereas rufus sounds like he belongs in Gomarrah circa 1550 B.C.

Jewish myth. Moving right along.

Or present-day San Francisco.

You've obviously never been to San Francisco. The "outlandish overt homosexuality" everyone pictures that exists in SF is much more subdued than one allows their imagination to assume.

Anonymous said...

Whereas rufus sounds like he belongs in Gomarrah circa 1550 B.C.

I was worried TAG wasn't getting enough of the bumpkin demographic. I feel reassured now.

rufus said...

Bertrand Russell writes: "The essence of the concept of righteousness is to afford an outlet for sadism by cloaking cruelty as justice"

anon 9:08 just proved Mr Russell to be correct.

Once you're done away with gay rights, who are you gonna target next? who else displeases you? Jews? hispanics? blacks? heretics?

your bigotry makes me sick to my stomack.


Anonymous said...

Gay members' money pays into the pension system the same as the rest of ours. Get off your damned high horse and support your union brothers and sisters to get the benefits they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Same-sex marriage has to be legalized first for the plan to recognize same-sex spouses as beneficiaries.

The fact is, the plan is expensive to administer as one of the most comprehensive in the world and they have limits that are obvious and have legal precedents. You also can't specify an opposite sex partner or "friend"(and I mean a pal) or brother or sister on the plan-just you, spouse and children. The deal with a legal marriage as the qualification is plain: marrying involves a legal commitment. When there is no legal gay marriage federally, then you may feel just as strongly about your gay partner as any hetero man and wife but it's not federally recognized. No way is the MPHW going to suddenly admit for a lot of same-sex spouses just out of the goodness of their hearts(too expensive).

When it's the law of the entire land, they will because they'll have to-not until then. It's more about money than any bigotry at all from them. I'm sure a lot of the MPHW staff is gay, after all.

As far as gay members having to pay for straight married couple' joint coverage: you could also argue that it's not really fair that my dues/plan monies go to help cover ALL the children of all the members when I have no kids(issues of infertility and btw, our insurance doesn't pay to fix that), including all the kids of GAY members who are also covered under the plan. It's just that the partner of the gay person isn't covered.
But those are the rules now. I don't get cut a break although I am one of two people and another person has 8 kids. Their 10 members are all covered, as is our 2/NK. That's the way it goes. It's pretty generous as it stands.

I hope same sex marriage is federally legalized/recognized soon, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Drunken and high, Brittney Spears married a high school chum in Las Vegas. When she sobered up, she either divorced the guy or had the marriage annulled. But if she had died during those 55 hours, and she had our Pension Plan, her spouse would have been entitled to the survivor's monthly benefit for the rest of his life. I have been with my partner for almost 30 years, and we are now married in California, and I have been paying into the pension fund for 15 years. He will not get a the monthly annuity if I pass away. Does anyone think that's just fine and dandy?

Anonymous said...

Not much will change until the bush economic debacle is undone. Thankfully, our President Obama is making headway after only 6 months in office. No, it won't be cheap to rescue the economy--but it'll be cheaper than an unwarrented war in Iraq.

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