It was emotionally painful for many Broadway actors to lose work because of the pandemic, but it’s even worse when their physical pains can’t be treated because they are losing health care.
With Broadway’s shutdown extending through May, thousands of actors’ ability to qualify for union-sponsored health insurance is affected because it is based on how many weeks they work on stage. Actors’ Equity reports that the number of work weeks has decreased by 65% this year, even with January–March work being normal.
Actors’ Equity, the union which represents Broadway stage performers and managers, told CNBC that 200 to 300 union members are losing health insurance each month.
Caitlin Kinnunen, a 29-year-old actress with type 1 diabetes, left New York to live with her parents in Washington after losing stage work for eight months. Her union-sponsored insurance will expire in April.
“How am I going to live?” Kinnunen told CNBC. “How am I going to afford to live? Should I just find a career that will give me health care so I can have the life I have built up until now continue?”
The Actors’ Equity insurance provider, Equity-League Health Fund, increased the requirement to qualify for six months of insurance from 11 weeks of work last year to 16 weeks this year, for the fund to survive.
The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan was already in trouble before the production shutdown disqualified about 3,500 participants and about 2,800 dependents, according to Deadline.
But there are backups … including the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”). The healthcare so many people vilified, demanding it be “repealed and replaced,” turns out to be a silver lining for those losing their jobs during the pandemic.
Open enrollment runs through December 15. Premium subsidies are available for those with lower incomes … like out-of-work actors. Kinnunen said she plans to check out an ACA Marketplace plan after her current insurance ends in April.