Bruce Gillespie

A blog by freelance writer and editor Bruce Gillespie.

ACTRA to offer health benefits to writers

Some interesting news from Quill & Quire: ACTRA, which represents TV and film workers, will be offering health benefits to writers and authors beginning in 2009. According to the story by Stuart Woods,

The Writers’ Coalition Benefits package will be “a basic, no-frills plan,” says AFBS president and CEO Bob Underwood. Initially, it will target members of participating organizations, which include The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, and the Playwrights Guild of Canada. There is talk, however, of expanding the program to a broad base of industry professionals, such as freelance agents, self-employed authors, or employees at small publishing houses and distributors.

Underwood says monthly premiums have yet to be decided, but they will be 20% to 30% more competitive than comparable packages offered by commercial insurers, which he says can cost up to $1,500 per year. A model plan will be rolled out by early summer at the latest, he adds, consisting of extended health-care benefits (including prescription drugs, vision and dental care, and hospital visits), limited life and accident insurance, and critical illness benefits. The AFBS is also looking into the feasibility of a disability program and opt-in home and auto insurance, as well as small-business insurance for those who maintain a home office.

As someone who has lived mostly without the benefit of health insurance since deciding to become a freelancer in 2002, I think this is good news. There have been other attempts to offer insurance packages to writers over the years, but one of the sticking points has been finding an insurer willing to provide a decent plan at a reasonable price. For plans to be appealing to an insurer and affordable to members, you need a fairly large, diverse group of people to sign up so that the higher costs of a few are counterbalanced by the modest cost of the many. Finding that mix can be a challenge, especially when you’re dealing with tens, or even hundreds, of people as opposed to thousands.

So, while I’m surprised to see this deal coming from ACTRA, it does make sense in many ways: ACTRA has a large membership base (21,000) and experience in working with freelance artists, so it makes more sense for them to offer it rather than for writers’ groups to interest an insurer in developing a new, reasonably priced package for a few hundred, or a few thousand, writers.


Written by bgillesp

December 5, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Freelancing

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