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SAG-AFTRA Health Plan to Pay $15 Million to Resolve Ed Asner’s Class Action Lawsuit

Michael Buckner/PMC

The SAG-AFTRA Health Plan announced on Monday that it has agreed to pay $15 million to older performers who lost health coverage due to eligibility changes made in 2020.

Under a settlement agreement, the health plan will also pay up to $5.6 million over the next eight years to older performers who no longer qualify for coverage.

The settlement resolves a class action lawsuit filed in December 2020 by Ed Asner, a former SAG president, and nine other performers.

Asner and the other plaintiffs alleged that the plan had discriminated against older members by raising the earnings floor to qualify for health benefits and excluding residuals from the earnings threshold. The plaintiffs said the change forced nearly 12,000 participants off the plan.

Asner died in August 2021 at the age of 91 while the case was still pending.

The plaintiffs and the health plan announced they had reached an “amicable resolution” of the dispute in a joint press release on Monday. The plaintiffs’ attorneys said that the settlement would provide “substantial monetary relief” to the plan participants while avoiding the costs and risks of continued litigation.

“The Class Participants who brought this complaint, on behalf of performers who were negatively impacted by the 2020 benefit changes, feel this settlement is a beginning to reestablishing trust and benefits,” they said in the release.

The trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan made the eligibility changes and raised premiums to address looming deficits. At the time, production had halted due to the pandemic. The plan was projected to lose $141 million in 2020, $83 million in 2021 and was faced with exhausting its reserves by 2024.

But the plaintiffs also argued that the plan’s financial woes stemmed from the 2017 merger of the SAG and AFTRA plans, which was the result of the merger of the two unions five years before that. They charged that the trustees had failed to study the financial implications of merging the plans and had not kept members updated on the plan’s financial condition after the merger.

The settlement includes a provision to formalize the process of disclosing the plan’s financial condition to members. The plan will also hire a consultant to advise on further cost-cutting measures that can be undertaken while protecting benefits, according to the release.

Variety's Gene Maddaus contributed to this post.

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