Married writing teams may find themselves in a situation where even though they are working on a project, their 50/50 split leaves each of them below the minimum necessary to qualify for health coverage. There’s good news and bad news. If you look at page 21 in the SPD you will find the following:
MARRIED WRITING TEAM WAIVER
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) will consider waivers to allow an unequal earnings allocation, such as 70/30 or 80/20, in circumstances where a married writing team would not earn Health Fund coverage if their earnings were allocated 50/50. This waiver must be requested from the Writers Guild prior to employment. Please contact WGA for more information.
The WGA can grant a waiver in varying proportions: 70/30, 80/20, or any amount the married team agrees to up to 95/5. If a married team makes a request to the Writers Guild then the Health Plan will apportion the contributions according the agreed upon percentages.
The bad news?
If the married team is writing a prime time one-hour drama, neither of them will qualify for health coverage from the PWGA Health Plan. Even with a 95/5 split, the money earned for writing the script would not be enough to qualify for health coverage. If a married writing team finds themselves in this circumstance, and they want to obtain health coverage, they may want to assign the credit to just one writer.
Now, let’s look at the good news.
Let’s say that a married writing team gets paid $75,000 to do a polish on a screenplay. If the monies are assigned to each of them equally they would get credit for $37,500 each. As of May 2, 2019, $39,463 is the minimum amount a writer must earn to qualify for a year of health coverage. Thus, in this scenario neither writer would qualify for health insurance. But, the couple could elect to split the writing fee unequally. For example, the couple could elect a 60/40 split so that the higher earning writer earns $45,000 – more than enough to qualify for a year of health coverage.
By doing this, a married writing team can ensure that at least one of them qualifies for health benefits. But what about the writer who elected to receive 40% as payment for his/her writing services? The writer with the qualifying amount can pay dependent the premium ($150 per quarter) and then the other member of the team can be covered as well.
There is one other consideration here and that has to do with pension contributions. A Writer has to earn $5,000 for a qualified year. At the end of a working career, a Writer’s pension benefit is determined by their earnings over their career. Thus, it may behoove a married writing team to alternate their splits. This is something best worked out with professional financial advice, but it is worth noting.
The bottom line is that in many circumstances, by going to the WGA and obtaining a waiver for a non-equal apportionment of writing services monies, a married couple may be able to qualify for health coverage.