WGA Pension and Health: What Every Screenwriter Needs to Know
Some useful tips to help you maintain your WGA health insurance and build toward your retirement.
Healthcare Eligibility and Managing Gaps
- Healthcare-eligibility minimums are pegged to one-hour network episodic television script fees. To qualify for health care, you need to meet this threshold, currently $40,854. Please be aware that the minimum to qualify will increase on May 2 each year of the MBA with any negotiated increases in Guild minimums.
- It’s important to communicate with your reps about what you need to earn to meet or exceed this threshold when they are negotiating your deals. Some at-scale feature deals (e.g., a treatment, rewrite, or polish) may not be enough to meet the threshold.
- Once you have established eligibility, it is important to be aware of your personal earnings cycle (the period in which you must meet the Eligibility Earning requirement to continue uninterrupted coverage). To check the status of your cycle, please visit wgaplans.org and click on “Coverage.” Also, keep in mind, contribution payments are attributable to the quarter when your compensation is earned and paid or due not when the check gets cut. Knowing these details will help you understand what is needed to maintain your coverage.
- There’s a “points” system for the Extended Coverage Program (ECP). If you lose eligibility because you haven’t earned sufficient compensation within an earnings cycle, and you have accumulated at least 10 points, you will automatically be placed in the ECP. Under this program, you may earn up to three points for each year of employer paid Health Fund coverage earned, beginning January 1, 1990. Additionally, you may accumulate up to a maximum of fifty (50) points, or five years of coverage. For more info or to check on the status of your points go to wgaplans.org and click on “Coverage.”
- Spec sales only generate pension and health contributions if accompanied by a paid writing step of at least a rewrite or polish. An option payment or a spec sale without a step means the writer gets zero contributions, even if the movie gets made. If you are selling a spec script, make sure you are also employed to do a rewrite! This is essential and will ensure that the company makes pension and health contributions on the rewrite and the purchase price up to the project cap.
- Please remember, there is a cap on the contributions you can receive on a theatrical project. Under the 2020 MBA, you (or you and your writing partner if you’re part of a team) can receive contributions on up to $225,000 of earnings for pension and $250,000 for health per project. After you earn $250,000, you will not receive additional health-care contributions. So, if you are on one project that lasts for a while, you could lose earned health coverage despite being employed.
- It’s critical that you and your reps push hard to hit the $250,000 threshold especially if you’re going to be working on a single project for a while. Even though your earnings will be subject to the cap, you will qualify for an Excess Earnings Extension (known as “The $250K Extension”) in health coverage. If you earn at least $250,000 for writing in one four-quarter earnings cycle but don’t earn what you need for the next cycle, you automatically get earned coverage for the next cycle as well.
- If you are part of a writing team, each of you will need to earn at least $125,000 in one four-quarter earnings cycle and one or both of you not earn enough in your next personal earnings cycle to be eligible. This extension is not automatic, so if you believe you qualify, email the Contracts Department or call (212) 767-7852. You can also call the Fund directly at (818) 846-1015 ext. 605.
Check with the Pension Plan and Health Fund to make sure the Signatory company employing you is remitting pension and health contributions in the correct amounts and in the proper time period. Although it is the employer’s responsibility to remit the payments, and the Fund performs regular audits, you can check on the status of your contributions by going to myplans.wgaplans.org and reviewing your work history under the Eligibility section. If you spot a discrepancy, please click on the Discrepancy Report form and provide the necessary information and documents so they can contact your employer.