By: Leo T. Reed

The cost of health care benefits has become one of the most important issues facing our members. Costs of care and insurance coverage have been going up at an alarming rate for the last decade or more. Indications are that costs will rise an average of nine to ten percent a year for the next five years.

The Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health trust— the administrator of your benefits package — paid approximately $500 million in health care costs last year for actives and retirees. If the projections are accurate, next year’s costs for just health care will increase by approximately $50 million! The $50 million more a year is just to stay even. There are also the increase pension cost, and the reduced reserves caused by the 2008 market crash.

‘What Can Be Done’ will be the only topic at a special Town Hall Meeting regarding the status of the Pension, Health and Welfare Plans. It is scheduled for 8 am on Sunday, January 22, 2012 at Pickwick Gardens, located at 1001 Riverside Dr. in Burbank. The IA has already scheduled a meeting at an earlier date. However, we feel that the closer we schedule our meeting to negotiations, the more accurate the numbers will be for both health care and pension costs. Please check our website for more details.

While we are on this very important subject, I would like to explain why we are in this situation and what you can do about it. Because of space limitation we will cover just health care issues for now.

Health care costs have increased at a faster rate than anyone was able to predict. All over the country, people have seen rising costs for medical services, doctor visits, tests, prescription drugs and hospital care.

Why is this happening?

First, costs in the medical, dental, vision care and prescription areas have been going up every year, and they are still rising. When costs go up, the insurance premiums rise. Second, the industry’s population is aging and the older we are, the more health benefits we use. With older age comes the need for some of the medical services that cost so much, especially in the form of tests and treatments that younger people do not face.

There is no doubt that medical costs increase for all ages in the workforce. This must be accepted and must be a part of the negotiated benefits in the contract. No industry is going to throw away the experience and skill of its workers. They must have solid benefits as part of the unity of organized labor.

Part of the blame for rising insurance costs is due to escalating costs for medical care, pharmaceuticals, and other health care expenses. A new mandate in the federal health care overhaul is also a factor in making insurance more expensive, by allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

Keeping Costs Down

Your cooperation is necessary in order to control costs and preserve your benefits. In January 2011, anticipating the challenges to health care coverage, I devoted my message to the important subject of using your benefits wisely. I reminded you that the rising health care costs won’t diminish anytime soon — and while each of us can’t stop these increases, we can work together to protect our benefits.

Using these benefits wisely is the responsibility of each member. You must do your part to help preserve your benefits in the future. By working together and being diligent in our cost-saving efforts, we can help safeguard and protect one of the most important benefits you and your covered dependents have come to count on – your health care coverage.

Take Charge of Your Health

Remember what you have been hearing in the media and from others: you can make lifestyle changes now to help you feel better and avoid preventable diseases like high blood pressure and heart problems, diabetes and circulatory problems. It may be as simple as losing weight, getting more exercise, or quitting smoking. These goals can be reached through wellness programs and following guidelines from your physician. Change comes slowly, but the improvements are well worth the effort on your part.

Stay Within Your Network

You can save out-of-pocket expenses and help keep plan costs down by staying within your network. You may use preferred or non-preferred providers, but your out-of-pocket costs will be much higher if you use non-preferred providers.

Understand Your Coverage

Understanding what is, and what is not, covered under your health insurance can save you both money and frustration when you are trying to schedule necessary medical procedures. Your plan administration staff members are willing to explain your coverage and they welcome your calls. They are there to serve you.

Avoid Expensive Emergency Room Visits

In a true emergency, the best action you can take is to call 911 immediately or go to the nearest medical facility. However, for non-emergency treatment, it is most important to call your primary care physician first. Emergency Room visits are extremely expensive. Avoiding them whenever possible can save you significant out-of pocket expenses.

We at Local 399 are committed to helping members stay healthy and keeping costs down, so that we can preserve your quality health care benefits in the future. We hope you will understand and follow these suggestions.

Your Local Cares About You

You can be sure that Local 399 has your back when it comes to quality benefits and maintenance of the excellent health care coverage you have. We are together in this, and make no mistake, we are committed to working out a successful solution to deal with rising costs.

We fully appreciate your support and want you to come to the Town Hall Meeting in January 2012. Thank you for your solidarity

A special Town Hall Meeting regarding the status of the Pension, Health and Welfare Plans:
Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 8AM
Pickwick Gardens
1001 Riverside Dr. in Burbank