Archive for the ‘Editors Guild’ category

Why Hospital Visits Cost So Much

February 10, 2010

Two articles on opposite sides of the NY Times’ business page yesterday neatly frame the crisis in medical costs. In the first, we learn that HCA, the largest hospital corporation in America, was taken private in 2006. The investors in the deal put up $5 billion and borrowed about $28 billion more. It’s not clear what added value that move brought to patients, but now, instead of paying back all that money, the new owners are paying themselves a fat multi-billion dollar dividend. Who pays for that? Patients, that’s who, in the form of higher prices. (Details are here: Shareholders Deciding a Dividend.)

On the other side of the page we learn that hospitals now spend $35 billion a year on patients who don’t have insurance. Who pays for that? The patients who do. That’s probably one reason why hospital bills are designed to be incomprehensible, with obscene prices like a $75 charge for a 35 cent disposable scalpel (true story). (Details are here: Bills Stalled, Hospitals Fear Rising Unpaid Care.)

I assume that people reading this blog fall into one of three groups: members of a union (whose medical costs go up every year and threaten to detonate every new contract), people who buy their own health insurance (at exorbitant prices because they’re not part of a risk pool) and people who get along without insurance (and end up using the emergency room the rest of us pay for). Is this system working for any of us?

Waiting Means Watching

January 5, 2010

Flat screens have made it possible to put TVs in every doctor’s office and, sure enough, they’ve now installed one in the waiting room at the West Side Health Center (part of the IATSE health plan). For your enjoyment, the audio is turned up to full listening volume. There were four of us sitting there recently. Three were reading, the fourth was looking around aimlessly. The TV was tuned to the Food Network. I asked if the sound could be muted, since nobody was watching. No, the receptionist was very clear about this. She has to make the TV available for patients. I didn’t bother to point out that I was a patient, too.

It used to be that putting a blaring TV in a waiting room was cheesy — something you’d find in low-rent diner or a Greyhound bus terminal. But today, with flat panels appearing everywhere, the unwritten rule is changing. Now everybody watches–and listens. In my book, that’s not an improvement. If you’re going to make me wait, at least let me do it in peace.

Health Plan Kicks In Sooner Than You Might Think

December 29, 2009

One of the most frustrating things about the health care bill working its way through Congress is that if it passes it won’t kick in for years (2013 for the House bill and 2014 for the Senate bill). It turns out that that’s true of the individual marketplace it sets up and for the subsidies to help people purchase plans there. But many other key provisions, some of particular concern to readers of this blog, will go into effect much sooner. One would extend Cobra eligibility for roughly four years. That ought to provide considerable extra peace of mind for people covered through the IATSE. Other provisions that come on quickly eliminate lifetime and yearly limits on coverage, partly close the Medicare drug “doughnut hole,” prohibit insurers from rescinding coverage when you get sick, limit insurance company profits, and force insurers to adopt uniform plan descriptions.

The details are in this NY Times blog post by David Herszenhorn: Health Bill Benefits for the Impatient. Check out the list that starts about halfway down the page. Some of it might surprise you.

IATSE Memorandum of Agreement Posted

February 26, 2009

According to Nikki Finke’s “Deadline Hollywood” blog, the IATSE locals will send out ballots on the new contract this week, but will not send out the memorandum of agreement itself. This would be pretty surprising — they’d be asking us to vote on a critical contract without seeing it in print. Ron Kutak had previously indicated in an email to Editors Guild members that the memorandum would be included in the packet. In any event, you can view it here. I find it pretty sobering. [Update — I just received the ballot and the memorandum was indeed included.]

The health plan provisions for out-of-network doctors are even worse than I mentioned earlier. The plan will reimburse only 50% of out-of-network costs, based on “the 70th percentile” of the “usual and customary” rate (which, as mentioned earlier, was recently determined to be fraudulent in a case before the NY State Attorney General’s office). For those of you without a math background that’s 50% of 70% of what they think it ought to cost (“70th percentile” isn’t quite the same as “70%” but without access to the actual fee schedule, it’ll have to do). If you get a bill for $100, they will very likely figure it’s really worth $80 or so. Then they’ll pay roughly 50% of 70% of the $80 or a lousy $28 on a $100 charge. Worse, there used to be a “stop-loss” provision for out-of-network expenses, which would limit the yearly amount you’d owe to $1100 not including co-pays. In the new contract, that limit will be eliminated entirely, meaning that you could be liable for a great deal of money. Like I said, you ain’t goin’ outta network anymore.

For additional details, read Nikki’s post or the 400 Hours blog. Local 600 has also posted some materials on their website.

The Editors Guild’s New Available List

February 8, 2009

As most of you know, the Editors Guild supplies an “available list” to employers who request it, listing all unemployed members in a particular classification. But what you may not know is that the Guild now supplies resumes for everybody on the list. I recently had reason to use this feature, and I think the resumes are a game-changer.

The old available list only provided names and contact information. That meant that an employer had to already know your name to be interested in hiring you. At best, it created a reaction like this, “Oh yea, I know him/her. I’ll call and ask for a resume.” Editors would often call friends and read the list to them, looking for someone they knew. The resumes work differently. They allow an employer to learn about people they don’t know. As an employee, it has the potential to introduce you to a much larger group of potential employers.

Editors Guild members can create or update their credit lists at the Members Only section of the Guild website. Many people already have them. But others don’t, or haven’t updated them in years. In addition, there’s lots of room now for information above and beyond a simple credit title — editors, directors, producers, awards, comments, etc. Because many credit lists began as printed directory listings, that info is often missing.

I strongly suggest that you log on and have the site display your finished resume. Look for errors and omissions and make adjustments as needed. Assistants should be sure to include the names of the editors and directors they’ve worked for. This may take a bit of work (the site can be pretty slow), but if it gets you one job, or helps you make one new contact, it’ll be worth it.

One tip — if you’re entering your credits from scratch, be sure to input them in the correct order — and to be safe, check the display order as you go. My list was completely mixed up and fixing it was an exercise in slow-moving frustration, since you have to move each and every credit, one … position … at … a … time.

Your final step should be to list yourself as unemployed, as soon as you’re off work. (Or sooner — the site allows you to specify a date after which you’ll be unemployed.) Otherwise your name won’t appear on the list.

New IATSE Contract (revised)

January 17, 2009

The Editors Guild will be holding an open meeting Thursday to explain the new IATSE basic agreement, on which members will be voting shortly. The most controversial provision is an increase in the basic health plan eligibility requirement from 300 to 400 hours — in the third year of the contract. This will make it harder for people who don’t work much to get coverage.

It also means that it’ll be harder to fill up your bank of hours. For those of you who don’t understand it, the bank extends your health insurance coverage. You accumulate hours in the bank during good times and then cash those hours in for another six months of coverage when your ordinary hours run out. It used to take 300 hours to get another half year of coverage, now it’ll take 400. Also, the maximum amount you can hold in the bank — 450 hours — won’t change, so you’ll get less out of the bank during a long dry spell.

Needless to say, this comes at a very bad economic time. I know many people who have been facing long unemployment periods and are turning to self-pay via COBRA to keep their benefits. But that can be startlingly expensive.

Details of the contract leaked out long ago and can be reviewed here. There’s also a new web site devoted to challenging the 400-hour requirement here.

The Guild recently sent out an email describing the contract in general terms, and it promises to get members the complete memorandum soon. I hope that it comes in time for us to read it before Thursday.

Meeting details:

Thursday, Jan. 22nd
Directors Guild
7920 Sunset
Los Angeles
7:30 pm

A similar meeting will take place Tuesday, February 10 at the New York office.

Let Them Eat Reruns

November 20, 2007

With the WGA and AMPTP now slated to resume negotiations after the Thanksgiving holiday there may be a ray of hope for the resumption of production.

The producers had said they’d never sit down again while a strike was proceeding, and now it seems that this was just negotiating bluster. Needless to say, both sides try to sound as tough as they can during this process — that’s what negotiations are all about.

In this vein, the producers have floated the idea that the strike will turn out to be a net positive for them. They’ll just air reruns or new reality shows and, after the strike hits its sixth week, they’ll be able to use “force majeure” clauses to break various development and production deals that they’ve wanted out of.

But here’s the rub — are audiences really that stupid? Do they really not notice the difference between reruns and original programming? Do new reality shows have a guaranteed audience? Frankly, I doubt it.

To see it otherwise is to assume that it doesn’t matter what’s on the air — the suckers in the audience are going to watch anyway. That breaks the oldest rule in the book: “Never underestimate your audience.” TV may be addictive, but there are plenty of other screens available now and when the public gets bored, they’re going to go elsewhere.

Hopefully, cooler heads are going to prevail, and the parties will find a way to share the wealth. Unlike most of the news coverage so far, an article in today’s NY Times offers some specifics about the deal points in question using webisodes of “Lost” as an example.

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