“Ridiculous and getting worse’ … ‘Horrendous’ … ‘A conundrum” … “Huge concern.”
These unscripted words are among many that are passionately flowing from voice actors in the U.S about the state of their health insurance.
Financial and emotional pain is evident as premiums rise, life circumstances change, and insurance plans yank precious benefits.
“Health care costs are strangling us,” says one. And another: “All our money goes to mortgage and insurance.”An April 2008 VoiceOverXtra survey of voice actors finds that while 81.8% of the survey respondents currently have some form of health insurance, 80.7% are “worried or concerned” about their health insurance in future months and years. And 19% say their coverage does not satisfy current needs. Worse, 18.2% of respondents today have no health insurance coverage at all.
Some (6.7%) of those without insurance actually want it that way, though:“For me, having health insurance simply doesn’t make sense,” writes a survey respondent. “Aside from an extreme health emergency, the cost of monthly insurance premiums far exceeds the benefit of having the ‘privilege’ to pay 20% of the medical bills.”
But the remainder without coverage say they’re in health insurance limbo because they can’t afford it (63.3%) or because they can’t find coverage (31%). Pre-existing medical conditions are keeping 13.3% of those out of the system. Well over half of the respondents (57.1%) without coverage have been searching for over a year; 33.3% have been at for at least six months.
Are they losing hope?
Yes. Slightly more than a third (37%) of those without insurance do not expect their plight to change within the next 12 months. And only a third (33.3%) think that “maybe” things will change.
“Health insurance is just ridiculous these days and is only getting worse,” says a survey respondent. Chimes another: “It is really a horrendous system.”
The survey was conducted online in mid-April through announcements to online voice-over industry forums and to VoiceOverXtra.com newsletter subscribers. Responses were gathered and tabulated independently by FreeOnlineSurveys.com. And the data and comments were recorded anonymously, so that they could not be linked to survey participants. The survey received 121 responses – many with feisty comments about their situations and experiences. (See the accompanying article, You Said It, for the full text of comments about current health insurance situations.)
Respondents tended to be industry veterans: 40.5% have been involved with voice-overs for 10 years or more. Only 12.4% are “just getting started” in the business. Significantly, about half (51.3%) of all respondents work full time as voice actors.
AFTRA and SAG offer health insurance to members – and that alone is an enticing reason to join.
Better yet, join both unions, says a survey respondent: “Dual coverage through two union plans is the best coverage obtainable,” the voice actor writes. “Just one more reason why being a union professional actor is the only way to go.”
Yet while 28.9% of the survey respondents belong to at least one union, only 8.3% have health insurance through their union. Why? One reason is not meeting an annual minimum income from voice acting.
“Due to limited union contracts, I have not qualified for AFTRA health insurance for many years,” comments a respondent.
Coverage through a spouse’s employer shields 24.8% from having to seek other avenues. Group plans covering either the individual voice actor or his/her family provide for 12.4% of the respondents’ insurance plans. Private policies – for individuals and families – cover another 21.5%. Employees who leave a company can elect to continue the company’s health insurance plan – though fully pay for it – for 18 months. This is called a COBRA plan, and 4.1% of the survey respondents are in stages of that now.
Medicare pays for another 4.1%. And “other” types of plans are enjoyed by 24.8%. A slight majority of those with coverage (51%) don’t anticipate changes within the next 12 months. Yet this leaves 23.5% who say things will change, and 25.5% who voice a “maybe.”
EVEN SO …
Still, there is financial pain among those with coverage. They write:
• “We are a hard-working family paying heavily for an insurance policy that is basically for something major. It hurts!”
• “If it weren’t for my husband’s coverage, this would be a huge concern. Plus, you never know what the future holds. We may be looking for affordable healthcare some day.”
• “Another birthday, and the cost of my health insurance will match my mortgage payment. I have no answers except try to survive to 65 and pray Medicare will still be in place. What a way to live!”
And what are voice actors paying for coverage now? For 77.1% of survey respondents, monthly premiums are under $500. Another 13.5% pay between $501 and $750 per month; 7.3% pay between $751 to $1,000 per month; and 1% each pay between $1,001 to $1,250 and $1,251 to $1,500. Ouch!
WHAT TO DO?
Several survey respondents suggest moving to Canada, the U.K. or France to obtain government-sponsored health care. Their tongues may be in their cheeks, but universal coverage is a clearly expressed option for some. Others vehemently protest the idea.
In future reports, VoiceOverXtra.com will share suggestions of survey respondents for easing the worry and financial burden of health insurance in the U.S. The reports will also point out additional health insurance options.
Of course, the absolute best thing to do, says a survey respondent, is to simply “stay healthy”.