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This letter responds to The Screen Actors Guild Abandons Mental-Health Benefits

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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I read this story with interest.   There is an issue here that must be considered -- if I am a trustee of a Taft Hartley plan and I receive an actuarial analysis suggesting significant financial costs that may threaten the plan -- I have a fiduciary obligation to do something to address that.  

But if I cannot just change either employer or employee contributions because of the underlying collective-bargaining agreement(s), I have little choice but to eliminate/reduce benefits in some way to address the matter. 

In other words, in a plan like the Screen Actors Guild probably has, it is not necessarily an issue that can be handled based on HR or executive-management discretion. 

As the administrator of a multiemployer Taft Hartley plan, I confront these kinds of issues on a regular basis -- and sometimes must sublimate my own personal preferences in order to fulfill my fiduciary obligation. 

In this story there is an underlying question as to the validity of the actuarial estimates given to the SAG -- I do not have enough knowledge about the actuaries or SAG to have any opinion as to whether there is some unusual factors unique to SAG that may influence the analysis.

Patrick Pine

Administrator

Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan

Juan De La Cruz Pension Plan

Keene, Calif.

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Re your article The Screen Actors Guild Abandons Mental Health Benefits.  Let me begin by telling you we have not cut our mental health benefits for our employees. 

I too read the WSJ article and was intrigued by what SAG was doing.  My problem with your article is Mr. Ballard heads a mental-health advocacy group that stands to make a ton of $$ once everyone realizes their benefits have dramatically improved.  

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Having been responsible for health benefits in my company for 25 years, I understand that what is subsidized gets used more. 

We used to have limits on mental-health office visits.  With no limit on such visits, what do you think patients/doctors will do?  They will schedule more visits. 

So it may be mental-health benefits in the first year or two will only go up minutely, but I am certain it will increase dramatically once patients realize they have better benefits.

We can argue all day about what level of mental-health-care benefits are appropriate, but mental-health parity will likely be the next growing cost center in healthcare moving forward.   

 

Steve Lippert

Executive Vice President

Hamilton Caster & Mfg. Co.

Hamilton, Ohio

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