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CIGNA Axes AGMA's Health

The American Guild of Musical Artists' New York members are losing their coverage through major health-care provider CIGNA.

AGMA received notice of the coverage discontinuance from The Entertainment Industry Group Insurance Trust (TEIGIT), which since 1965 has administered health insurance plans for members of participating associations in the arts and entertainment industry throughout the country. CIGNA has informed TEIGIT that the health coverage will stop at the end of January 2003.

"Many of our members in New York bought insurance through TEIGIT because it's pretty much the most affordable coverage outside of our collective bargaining agreements," Alan Gordon, AGMA's national executive director, said on Tuesday. "It wasn't inexpensive; but it was less expensive than most. It's a tremendous shock to learn we're losing it." Gordon said he didn't immediately know the number of members covered under the TEIGIT plan.

Gordon wasn't the only one shocked. In a letter to AGMA, TEIGIT's administrator Florence K. Diamond said, "We had no prior knowledge or indication that this termination was being contemplated."

Bert Diamond, TEIGIT's owner, told Back Stage, "We have a substantial number of associations, 15 or 20, with members covered through the plan in the New York area. By CIGNA's terminating the contract we have, they automatically terminate any clients we have in the plan. That includes all members for all associations. The associations covered in other states are not terminated. That apparently is continuing."

Diamond said that the other major performers unions such as the Screen Actors Guild and Actors' Equity Association have never been covered by the policy.

He added that questions remain as to the reasons for CIGNA's action. Diamond has asked the state Insurance Department to investigate and make sure that the insurance provider is legally withdrawing the coverage. "They've terminated a class known as association health insurance," Diamond said. "All associations in the State of New York who purchase through CIGNA will be terminated; not just us."

Diamond has also retained a major Albany law firm to investigate the matter on TEIGIT's behalf.

Back Stage traded calls with a CIGNA spokesperson, seeking to obtain the insurer's rationale for stopping the coverage, but hadn't linked up by press time.

AGMA is encouraging members to seek alternate coverage, placing a notice on its website saying, "With the demise of TEIGIT's coverage, uninsured or underinsured members can try the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center at (800) 798-8447."

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