Providing Health Care to a Constantly Changing Work Force

Like employers in other industries, production company employers in the entertainment industry were forced by health care reform to consider offering health care benefits to employees or pay a penalty, but the work force is complicated.

Entertainment Partners (EP) is a provider of management resources to production companies in film and television.

Joe Scudiero, senior vice president and chief labor counsel for EP, located in Burbank, California, explains, “We are a co-employer for production workers we payroll in the industry. As production companies rely on us for compliance support, we wanted to assist in providing health care insurance for the nonunion employee segments that have previously not received coverage. But the production companies are really the plan sponsors for Employee Retirement Income Security Act [ERISA] and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [ACA] purposes.”                     

He adds that many production companies are established only for a limited period of time, and there is no ongoing infrastructure for them to invest in or administer health insurance. In addition, production workers constantly move from one job to another; they could be in a job for weeks, a day, several months or a year. EP is a co-employer for tens of thousands of nonunion employees and decided to provide a program for production companies to use to meet their ACA obligations.

It is easy to see why offering health insurance in this industry is complicated. But the ACA’s mandate for employers to provide affordable insurance to a substantial number of full-time employees forced EP to look for options that would work. “Besides wanting a solution to facilitate the offering of health care benefits for production companies, we wanted a solution that would be portable for workers,” Scudiero tells PLANSPONSOR. EP realized a traditional group plan offering would be inadequate, so it worked with a benefits broker to build a private exchange from which employees could choose health insurance.

The private health care exchange was custom built for EP and is named EP Cares. An advantage for employees is that if they leave one production company and go to another that has subscribed to EP Cares, their health benefit may be maintained. Also, if an employee leaves for good, he may choose to continue to have insurance through the same carrier at employer group rates under COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act).

Once the private exchange was built, EP looked for a firm to partner with for administration of the benefit. Scudiero says PlanSource, provider of a cloud-based health exchange and benefits engagement platform, was most attractive because its platform could handle the uniqueness of the production industry. PlanSource began supporting EP’s health care exchange as of January 1, 2014.

Shannon Osborne, manager of implementation at PlanSource in Orlando, Florida, notes that the platform is branded for EP; an employee logs on to the EP Cares URL, and when he is done using the platform, he receives confirmation of the health care benefit selected. Scudiero adds that PlanSource’s enrollment platform also offers benefit selection help; an employee logs in, completes demographic information and gets suggestions for which plans would meet his situation.

Nonunion production company employees now have health benefits that meet their needs, and production companies served by EP have a benefit offering that satisfies requirements of the ACA. “From my standpoint, it was mandated by law, but we discovered that the industry wanted it, and many companies felt it was the right thing to offer competitive benefits to nonunion workers,” Scudiero says. “Thousands of workers now are eligible for health insurance who previously didn’t have insurance.”