With the recent announcement of extending social distancing and safer at home measures through to mid-May, we have received an influx of calls regarding MPI Health Benefits and how this situation will be handled to protect our Members health benefits. I know that you and your family’s access to healthcare is an extremely important priority, and there are many working behind the scenes at MPI discussing and making the best decisions on behalf of the collective participants to protect Members not only now, but also when we return to work.
Over the weekend we shared the most recent update from MPIPHP, however I wanted to take some time to address some commonly asked questions we have been receiving from the Membership regarding MPI benefits. We are planning to host a “Local 399 Digital Townhall” on Tuesday April 28th where we will also spend some time reviewing this information. Save the date for now as we will be sharing a registration link to our “Local 399 Digital Townhall” with the Membership soon.
MPI Frequently Asked Questions:
QUESTION: In light of the COVID-19 situation, what changes have been made to MPI’s hours?
ANSWER: MPI is available by phone from 6AM – 6PM. The MPI Visitor Center is currently closed until further notice.
QUESTION: I have been trying to get through to MPI via phone and I have been experiencing long wait times.
ANSWER: As you can imagine, many Participants have been reaching out with important questions which have caused longer wait times. MPI has indicated that email is the preferred method of communication at this time. Participants are highly encouraged to email MPI at service@MPIPHP.org to communicate with MPI staff. A team of MPI staff members are dedicated to responding to emails received. As a reminder, please include your name, date of birth, MPI ID (or last four numbers of your Social Security Number) and mailing address (or phone number) when sending emails to MPI. This will help expedite the process of responding to emails.
QUESTION: Due to the loss of work, I am afraid I will not qualify for Health Benefits. How does MPI plan to assist Members at risk of losing their Health Insurance?
ANSWER: MPI just recently announced a new update regarding ‘Hours Credit Extends Eligibility for Health Care Coverage’. For those Active Participants currently enrolled in the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan (MPIHP), excluding those on COBRA and those who maintain enrollment through MPIHP as a result of a disability, and whose benefit period ends on June 30, 2020, MPIHP will provide a credit of up to 300 hours toward the Participant’s next eligibility period. In order to receive any credit, all of the Participant’s banked hours and all of his or her worked hours for the qualifying period from October 27, 2019 to April 25, 2020 must be exhausted. Only the minimum amount of hours needed for that Participant to continue their eligibility in MPIHP for the benefit period of July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 will be credited. No hours will be credited toward a Participant’s bank of hours or any other qualifying period.
In order to check to see if this credit applies, Participants are encouraged to log-in to the MPI website and check their work history on the “Eligibility” page. Additionally, Participants are reminded that general eligibility information, including eligibility and qualifying periods, may be found on the MPI website at: www.mpiphp.org/home/eligibility.
If you unsure as to whether this applies to you or if you still have questions about when your coverage ends, call MPIPHP directly: 855-275-4674. If you have any other questions, you can also reach out to your Business Agent directly.
QUESTION: What about the next qualifying period? With this gap in work, how will that effect my hours moving forward?
ANSWER: As this situation is continually changing, so are the discussions being had by the Directors of the Plans as to how to best protect Participants. The best advice I can provide at this time is to stay connected to all of our channels of communication to ensure you are receiving the most up-to-date information. All Directors of the Plans are well aware of the struggles and concerns of Participants and we are constantly evaluating the best recourse on behalf of all Participants.
QUESTION: In light of this COVID-19 Situation, does MPI plan to offer any assistance like waiving our Health Premiums?
ANSWER: MPI has provided the following assistance regarding the waiver of Health Premiums for now:
Participants responsible for paying active health premiums are granted a one-time premium waiver for one eligibility quarter. This waiver will only be extended to Participants enrolled in the Active Health Plan of the Motion Picture Industry Health (MPIHP) on March 1, 2020; the waiver provided is based on the number of dependents enrolled in coverage on March 1, 2020, as well as the Participants’ rate group on March 1, 2020. For health premiums that have already been paid by Participants for an upcoming quarter of coverage, MPIHP will not extend a refund; rather, a credit for health premiums for a future quarter of coverage will be provided.
QUESTION: In light of this COVID-19 situation and the financial stress on myself and my family, is there any way MPI would let us access our IAP early in order to help during this crisis?
ANSWER: The Board of Directors voted to take the following action regarding ‘Individual Account Plan Hardship Withdrawal.’
Participants who are vested in the Motion Picture Industry Individual Account (“IAP”) as of the year ended December 2019, may apply for a one-time special early withdrawal of an elected amount of need of up to 20% of their 2018 IAP account balance not to exceed a maximum dollar limit of $20,000. Participants must apply for this special withdrawal between May 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020 and payments must be completed no later than December 31, 2020 to be reported on a 2020 Form 1099-R for tax purposes.
This exception is not an amendment to the IAP’s Trust Agreement and this one-time withdrawal will be subject to the hardship withdrawal provisions within IRS regulations. Participants who are requesting the maximum available amount of $20,000 will be allowed to “gross up” their withdrawal to account for federal and state tax withholdings (i.e., Participants are able to withdraw $20,000 not inclusive of federal and state tax withholdings). If permitted by law, such a withdrawal will not be taxable if it is repaid to the IAP within three years’ time.
The application process for this withdrawal request is as follows:
- The Participant must complete an IAP Hardship Withdrawal Request form (tentative availability date of May 1, 2020)
- The Participant must sign an affidavit affirming his or her temporary job loss due to the COVID-19-related health emergency
- Payments will be processed in accordance with instructions provided on the IAP Withdrawal Request form.
QUESTION: In regards to the ‘Individual Account Plan Hardship Withdrawal’, can I still take this if I have gone on withdrawal from the Union?
ANSWER: Yes. Going on a Withdrawal Status with the Union will not impact this provision.
QUESTION: I am not sure if my family and I should take advantage of the ‘Individual Account Plan Hardship Withdrawal’. Does the Union have any advice surrounding this COVID-19 Emergency adopted policy?
ANSWER: The Union would recommend to our Membership that this “IAP Hardship Withdrawal” should be reserved to those that have found themselves or their family in a very difficult financial situation. We advise that before you embark on taking money out of your IAP you first exhaust every possible resource to help alleviate financial hardship. I urge the Membership to only utilize this option if you have no other alternative. Do not take money set aside for retirement as most people never repay themselves.
QUESTION: If I decide not to apply for the “IAP Hardship Withdrawal” but I am in need of immediate financial assistance, what should I do?
ANSWER: Speak to your creditors and see if they’ll allow you to defer payments during this crisis. Make sure to contact the Motion Picture Television Fund or the Actors Fund. Both of these organizations are working around the clock to assess and help meet the immediate financial needs of individuals or families that are part of the Motion Picture Industry. We have seen entities like Netflix, The Academy, Producers and more make large contributions to both of these organizations in order to help support out-of-work Members. The financial support that is received from either of these entities does not need to be paid back and can help ease the burden of an upcoming bill or payment that is due.
- MOTION PICTURE TELEVISION FUND:
- MPTF Intake Line: 323-634-3888 Call today. You will be assigned a MPTF case manager to walk through your specific and immediate needs. MPTF has been serving workers in the Motion Picture Industry since 1921. Take time to reach out if you need immediate financial help.
- THE ACTORS FUND:
- Call the Actors Fund Today: 888.825.0911. Learn more about the services and programs here: actorsfund.org/am-i-eligible-help
Again, we advise that before you embark on taking money out of your IAP you first exhaust every possible resource to help alleviate financial hardship.
QUESTION: Due to the COVID-19 Situation, I am concerned about the health of the Plans. Is there any update regarding our Financial Markets at this time?
ANSWER: Here is the latest provided by MPI regarding and update on the Financial Markets:
‘The Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan (MPIPP) investment professionals have been anticipating and preparing for a market downturn and have taken pre-emptive action to minimize the impacts of these market changes. MPIPP is a long-term investor with a well-diversified portfolio including a large portion of investments that do not have a strong correlation to the world financial markets. Our investment strategy is built to weather the inevitable financial storms that occur over the decades and take advantage of appropriate and prudent investment opportunities when they arise.’
As more information becomes available we will share with our Members. If you have specific questions, you can reach out to Business Agent Joshua Staheli for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUESTION: Are there any other benefits I should be aware of at this time regarding MPIHP:
No Out-of-Pocket Costs for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing: Participants will not incur any out-of-pocket costs (no co-payment and/or co-insurance) for the COVID-19 virus diagnostic test and the associated visit for this test.
Participants are reminded that if their provider allows for tele-visits, they may have a telemedicine visit through your primary care provider or specialist at the same benefit as an office visit (co-payment and co-insurance apply). Alternatively, several of the health plans offered through the Plans provide an online telemedicine portal. If you are not feeling well, telemedicine is a helpful option because it allows you to visit with a medical provider who can evaluate your symptoms and tell you if you should visit a local health provider in person for COVID-19 testing.
- Anthem Blue Cross Participants: Allows for televisits, they may have a telemedicine visit through their primary care provider or specialist at the same benefit as an office visit (co-payment and co-insurance apply). Participants may also visit with a provider using LiveHealth Online (www.livehealthonline.com) and pay no copayment or coinsurance.
- Participants enrolled in Anthem Medicare Preferred Plan (Medicare Advantage) may use telemedicine for medically necessary visits with their primary care provider or specialist for a $0 co-payment so long as the provider accepts Medicare. LiveHealth Online (www.livehealthonline.com) is also available 24/7 at no co-payment.
- Kaiser Permanente or the Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage Plan Participants should call (833) 574-2273 to schedule a telemedicine visit. Or, Participants can make an appointment online at kp.org/getcare or with the Kaiser Permanente app. There will not be a required copayment to use this benefit.
- Health Net or the Health Net Seniority Plus Plan Participants may call (800) 835- 2362 to use their telemedicine benefit or visit www.Teladoc.com. Participants will not be required to pay a co-payment.
- Oxford Health Plans and the Oxford Medicare Advantage Plan Participants may seek a tele-visit visit through their primary care provider or specialist at the same benefit as an office visit (co-payment and co-insurance apply). Alternatively, Participants may use telemedicine through Amwell (https://amwell.com/cm/) and Participants will not be required to pay a co-payment or coinsurance. This telemedicine benefit is in effect through April 30, 2020.
Optum Emotional and Mental Support During this Crisis:
Optum Behavioral Health Solutions (“Optum”) is encouraging providers and Participants to use secure video-enabled virtual visits, and is supplying the platform that providers need to have secure video visits with individuals who cannot travel to an office. For Participants or providers who do not have access to secure video technology, Optum is allowing telephonic sessions if a member is confined to their home due to COVID-19 illness or quarantine.
- Optum is offering a free emotional support help line for all people impacted by COVID-19. This help line will provide those affected access to specially trained mental health specialists. The company’s public toll-free help line number, (866) 342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as necessary. This service is free of charge and open to anyone. Additionally, there are several coping and disaster tools and resources available to you on www.liveandworkwell.com. Log on to this site using “MPI” as your “Guest Access Code” and then select “Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans” from the drop down menu.
As mentioned above, we will continually update you on the status of the MPI Plans and try to address all of your questions and concerns. When we say we are all in this together, this includes all Participants within MPIPHP, as well as the decision makers that are working to not only protect you and your family during this crisis, but who are also responsible to protect all Participants well into the future.
Secretary-Treasurer Steve Dayan, President Kenny Farnell and Business Agent Joshua Staheli all sit as Directors on the Plans and if you have any additional questions, please make them your first call.