LOS ANGELES — Pritesh Shah is a 35 years old active and healthy person who has never needed his health insurance, but always felt safe having it until he received a letter saying he no longer had health insurance. 

What You Need To Know

  • In August, SAG-AFTRA Health Plan announced a new health plan

  • To qualify, union members would have to make just under $26,000 a year, an $8,000 increase

  • Ten actors are suing SAG-AFTRA Health Plan

  • The suit lead by seven-time Emmy winning actor Ed Asner

“I kinda laughed. I was like, are you kidding me? We just had the stay at home orders and then got the letter in April. I was quarantining with my parents in San Diego and I’m sitting in the house going, 'ok I guess I don't have health insurance anymore,'” he said.

Shah is an actor, who is also working on pitching a short film he is in for a feature. He was dropped earlier this year after not making SAG-AFTRA Health Plan’s standard threshold. He for sure would not have made their new one.

“I did expect the union during the pandemic to kind of extend it or do something about it,” he said.

In August, SAG-AFTRA Health Plan announced a new plan that raised premiums and earnings thresholds. To qualify, union members would have to make just under $26,000 a year, an $8,000 increase.

Ten actors are suing SAG-AFTRA Health Plan, in a suit lead by seven-time Emmy winning actor Ed Asner. He is a former SAG president and currently a member of the SAG-AFTRA national board.

“The older actors were the ones who were dropped. A hefty number of actors were dropped," Asner said. “I guess we’re going to have to appeal to the industry at large, that producers in the union will have to get together, the merged union that is, and solve the problems that now exist concerning pension and health."

Some prominent union members released a video, including Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Mark Hamill, criticizing the health care changes.

The lawsuit Asner and others filed claims the new plan unfairly targets seniors, and that 12,000 people will lose coverage. 

The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan Board of Trustees released the following statement:

"The lawsuit filed against the Board of Trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan (and the former SAG-Producers Health Plan) is entirely without merit. The Board of Trustees has always taken its responsibilities very seriously, consulting with respected and experienced experts in connection with the Health Plan merger and the ongoing design of the Plan. The complaint misrepresents the facts and omits material information about the diligence that preceded the decision to merge as well as the circumstances leading to the recent benefit changes. We will vigorously contest this lawsuit and demonstrate that our actions were fully consistent with our legal responsibilities."

SAG-AFTRA also said, "Without significant changes, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan’s reserves would have vanished for ALL participants by 2024."

The union pointed out that seniors are not losing coverage; rather they can still get Medicare.

Shah said he could not believe the union would make these changes during a global pandemic, when most if not all actors could not even work.

“Your first thought is if you do get the virus or anything else at this time you’re covered and don’t get a bill for $50,000 or whatever it costs,” he said.

For now, Shah will try to stay healthy, and hope for some more good work to make next year’s new higher healthcare threshold.