FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GOVERNOR SIGNS LAW ASSISTING ENTERTAINERS WITH HEALTH BENEFITS
New Law Will Help Those in the Entertainment Industry Maintain Health Insurance
Governor George E. Pataki today signed into law legislation that will create a new demonstration program to help people working in the entertainment industry, as well as displaced workers, maintain their health insurance. The New York State Health Insurance Demonstration Project will provide eligible entertainment employees and displaced workers with assistance maintaining their group health insurance coverage.
"We are fighting for every job here in New York and that most certainly includes those in the entertainment industry," Governor Pataki said. "Whether it's those working under the bright lights of Broadway or in a small film studio, this new law will help those entertainers who need it most maintain their health insurance and allow us to strengthen our diverse entertainment industry."
Senator Kemp Hannon, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee said, "This bill is a strategic addition to health insurance laws to help keep talented members of an industry in that industry, and aimed at keeping that industry in New York."
For many people in the entertainment industry, intermittent employment is a fact of life. While Federal COBRA legislation requires employers to continue to offer health insurance to employees who have been terminated for reasons other than the employee's gross misconduct, it is usually the employee's responsibility to cover these costs. Even though this is an important option, many entertainment industry workers struggle to meet these monthly payments while in between jobs, and this new demonstration program will help them meet these costs.
Joseph Benincasa, Executive Director of The Actors' Fund of America said, "By signing Senate Bill S7054B, Governor Pataki has once again demonstrated his innovation and leadership in expanding health insurance coverage in the State through programs such as Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, HealthyNY, and now Insurance Continuation Assistance. We applaud his efforts to keep New York's working people and their families insured.
Gregory V. Serio, Superintendent of Insurance, said, "The Governor's action today is another great example of his work to help more New Yorkers gain access to affordable and comprehensive health care coverage. The Insurance Department is carrying out the Governor's goal to find health insurance solutions for all working New Yorkers. We're proud to partner with the entertainment industry to ensure that their workers get the health care coverage they deserve."
The new demonstration program will subsidize up to 50 percent of the cost of monthly health insurance for entertainment industry employees and dislocated workers who are at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level for up to 12 months. It has been estimated that roughly 25 percent of the 25,000 people covered by one of the multi-employee plans associated with the entertainment industry unions would become eligible for this program.
A displaced worker who would qualify would be any individual who is certified by the federal Secretary of Labor as having been terminated as a result of increased international competition. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 individuals in New York State would qualify, most of whom are located Upstate.