Senator Portantino’s Bill Maintaining Health Care Coverage for TV Commercial Production Workers Signed into Law by Governor Newsom

Thursday, October 28 2021

For Immediate Release: October 28, 2021

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino’s Bill Maintaining Health Care Coverage for TV Commercial Production Workers Signed into Law by Governor Newsom

Sacramento, California – Senate Bill 255, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge), was signed into law by Governor Newsom. The measure will ensure that freelance television commercial production employees can keep their existing high-quality health insurance benefits.

“Freelance employment is the backbone of the entertainment industry’s employment practices,” stated Senator Portantino. “Without SB 255, many commercial crew and dependents would have lost their health insurance and have been forced to replace it with self-paid individual coverage at a much higher cost than the employers are able to provide in the large group market. I am thankful to Governor Newsom for recognizing that SB 255 is critical for the health of this valuable workforce.”

Because freelance filming crews are hired on a project-by-project basis and may have dozens of different production company employers over the course of a year, they have no means to qualify for regular employer benefits plans. To fill this void, the Producers’ Health Benefits Plan (“PHBP”) - a fully insured, employer sponsored health plan – was formed to provide high quality health benefits at no cost to nearly 1,200 eligible California W-2 common law employees of the television commercial production industry. However, due to recently enacted legislation, these freelancers are now in jeopardy of losing this insurance. SB 255 will prevent this from happening by allowing the PHBP – and only PHBP - to continue offering their insurance but only if it meets the high standards that the new law was intended to uphold.

SB 255 will prevent W-2 commercial freelance employees from losing their existing high quality insurance coverage as certain conditions are met, including:

  • The plan has been in continuous existence since January 1, 2014, as an employee welfare benefit plan.
  • The plan provides a level of coverage having an actuarial value or equivalent to the platinum level of coverage avail-able through the California Health Benefit Exchange.
  • The plan contract includes coverage of employees, and their dependents, who are employed in designated job categories on a project-by-project basis for one or more participating employers, and who, in the course of that employment, are not covered by another group health care service plan contract in which the employer participates.

SB 255 was sponsored by the Producers Health Benefit Plan and supported by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, Galpin Studio Rentals, Production Equipment Rental Group, BizFed, Harvest Films Inc., and Valley Industry and Commerce Association.

“The PHBP would like to thank Senator Portantino for recognizing the importance of the commercial production industry to the economic health of California and for standing up for the wellbeing of our industry’s freelance workforce, who would otherwise be unable to qualify for employer paid health care,” stated Sean Cooley, Executive Director for the Producer’s Health Benefits Plan. “Allowing the commercial production industry to take care of its workforce will help California continue to be the world leader in filmed entertainment and advertising.

For Senator Portantino, authoring SB 255 demonstrates his deep commitment and appreciation of the entertainment industry.  Like thousands of present-day Californians, he moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey after graduating from college to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.  He worked in production until he transitioned to public service.