By Laura Bradley
When Flint Town director Jessica Dimmock first decided to urge the Directors Guild of America to change its parental leave policies, one dim worry crept into the back of her mind: What if she was starting this battle only for herself? What if she was the only person who had lost health insurance because having a baby made it impossible for her to meet the minimum income requirement to stay on the plan? “In my gut I knew this wasn’t going to be the case,” Dimmock told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. “But there was a slight moment where I was like, ‘Huh, maybe this doesn’t happen to people and I’m just super inefficient, or…’ I don’t know.”
Once the campaign launched, however, a flood of responses confirmed Dimmock was not alone in this frustration—not remotely. “And they weren’t just the DGA,” Dimmock said. “They were also from the Writers Guild, they were also from producers, they were also from people that are part of [the Screen Actors Guild].”
For coverage under the DGA’s health insurance—a separate entity called the DGA-Producer Health Plan, which is jointly administered by the guild and producer associations representing the film, TV, and commercial production industries—members must surpass a minimum income threshold from directing guild projects within a 12-month period. Having a baby complicates that task for obvious reasons—and as a result, after Dimmock gave birth in 2017, she lost her guild insurance. She switched to COBRA, which carries higher premiums, at a time when she needed to visit the doctor more often than ever. Dimmock’s directing partner, the baby’s father, lost his insurance for a quarter but, she noticed, was also not as intensely impacted overall.
And so last summer, once Dimmock was back on her feet and directing once more, she decided to explore what she might do. By December, she had gathered dozens of signatures on a letter calling for new parents to be granted extensions to the time period required to meet their minimums, which she presented to the Eastern Council Board. The proposition extends to all new parents, including those who have adopted.
“They were receptive and they said, ‘We’d like to explore this,’” Dimmock said of the council’s reaction, “but there was nothing else that happened.” Dimmock took her campaign public in January ahead of the DGA’s national board meeting in the hopes of keeping the pressure on. But that gathering came and went. The path forward at this point is unclear; she has received no next-steps.
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