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Hollywood healthcare

Hollywood healthcare
Hollywood healthcare

 


David Radcliffe always knew that trying to make it as a Hollywood writer with a good salary and health benefits was a gamble, and especially risky for someone with cerebral palsy.

And now the risks seem higher than ever.

As studios cut spending after years of rapid expansion, it's becoming increasingly difficult for new writers like Radcliffe to succeed. almost $44,000 necessary to qualify for coverage by the Writers Guild of America.

The writers did not work during a nearly five-month strike that ended last September. Even before that, studios were hiring less because they reduced writer's rooms and ordered shorter series.

Radcliffe, who last appeared on the CBS drama Tracker found himself $4,000 short of WGA coverage, known to be complete and affordable.

My health insurance would have been extended by a year if I had spent about one more week on the TV show I was on, Radcliffe said. So that’s how real these things can get. A few days of work can make all the difference.

He shared his plight on social media, as did other writers on the verge of losing media coverage. Some asked for help finding a writing job that would get them above the income threshold.

A break for now

Radcliffe and other writers affected by the strike are receiving a brief reprieve under the terms of a strike settlement agreement reached with the studios last year that grants them cover extensions.

Radcliffe only learned about the extension a few days ago from another WGA member who had seen one of his social media posts about losing coverage.

Instead of having his policy canceled in the fall as expected, Radcliffe will be insured throughout the year. And he'll have three more months to earn the remaining $4,000 he needs to qualify for insurance next year.

Radcliffe helps spread information about the expansion to fellow writers like her friend Joelle Garfinkel. She is $3,000 short of the income needed to qualify for coverage.

It's a very scary situation, especially as a single mother, said Garfinkel, who has a six-year-old son.

Garfinkel said a confluence of industrial developments has created an unstable landscape for entertainment workers.

The streaming bubble bursts and sales of [the CW television network] those are all factors that are kind of creating this contraction that we're in,” Garfinkle said.

To help struggling writers during strikes, Garfinkel came up with the Green Envelope Grocery Fund who continued to provide grants to help with household expenses.

Now that she's looking for writing work to supplement her income so she can qualify for health care, she's turning to the same writing community for help.

Many writers I know tend to be resilient and exhibit courage and deep empathy, Garfinkel said.

The lower levels

It's a particularly difficult time for low-level and lower-paid writers, which is how Garfinkel describes himself. Despite 16 years of experience, she remained stuck in editor or story editor roles several rungs below showrunners or writers with studio contracts.

Radcliffe, who has worked on three shows, said he had hoped to end up higher up the channel.

As the industry restructures during this tumultuous time, he says more needs to be done to retain and promote new writers, including those from underrepresented communities, an issue close to his heart as co-chair of the WGA Writers with Disabilities Committee.

A mid-level writer with a co-producer credit, for example, will earn enough to not have to worry about health insurance eligibility, Radcliffe said.

We need to pay special attention to people who are still at the bottom of the ladder, Radcliffe said. These are the people who will need experience and network to build their own projects in the future.

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