Every Artist Insured – A Goal and an Opportunity

If you’re a working artist, you know the story, maybe have even had it happen to you. You’ve taken part in or attended benefit concerts when a community member has had a medical emergency. You’ve donated art to sales in order to help pay down doctor’s bills. Maybe you’ve waited out sickness or injury instead of going to get checked up. Why? Because as self-employed people with variable and sporadic incomes, artists are twice as likely to be uninsured compared to the national average, with over 30% of the artist population without any coverage. This has begun to change with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. As of January 1, 2014, every person is now guaranteed the right – and most are mandated – to purchase health insurance.  This will end one of the most onerous and unfair aspects of health insurance in the United States – denial due to a pre-existing condition. It has now become possible to obtain health insurance with full benefits at a reasonable cost made possible through premium subsidies and other cost reductions.
There are many arts and advocacy organizations that have been working with artists around healthcare and insurance over the years. Since 1998, the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) at The Actors Fund has helped visual and performing artists, entertainment professionals, artisans and craftspeople throughout the country find quality, affordable health insurance. Recently The Actors Fund received a grant from the Hearst Foundations to develop a coalition of partnering organizations (regional arts councils, arts and entertainment unions and membership associations) across the coutry to help spread the word about the ACA via seminars, marketing & social media.  Over the course of the health insurance marketplaces’ Open Enrollment period – November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015 – The Actors Fund and its partnering organizations will present seminars called EVERY ARTIST INSURED in at least 14 cities: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Seattle and Washington DC.

Some of the local partners currently include Springboard for the Arts, MusiCares, CultureCapital, SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity, Craft Emergency Relief Fund, the Albuquerque Public Art Program, the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, and the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture in Cleveland.  Many of these partners already have local, specific health resources for you to use – check them out!

The Actors Fund invites any arts or community organization in the 14 cities who are interested in this project to join them. The seminars describe the most significant changes in health insurance, focusing especially on the features that affect those purchasing insurance on the individual market as self-employed artists and  episodic workers. You can also find a handy FAQ on changes in health insurance from Springboard for the Arts here.

Each state has an Exchange, or marketplace, where individuals and small businesses can go to purchase insurance from private insurers. All plans on the exchange will offer at a minimum an essential benefits package that will include office visits, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse, prescription drugs and preventive and wellness services.

There are real financial protections as well.  Insurers can no longer impose annual or lifetime dollar limits on medical benefits.  And plans must limit an enrollee’s out-of-pocket expenses (including the deductible) to $6,600 for an individual or $13,200 for a family (2015 amounts). The social significance of this cannot be exaggerated – it ends the era of ruinous medical debt, with bills of 100K or more sending afflicted families into bankruptcy. At the heart of the ACA, the feature that makes health insurance affordable for low and middle income artists, are the premium subsidies (tax credits) and other cost reductions.  The amount of the subsidy depends on actual income and family size, and works on a sliding scale.

The seminars in each city explain in detail all of these elements of the ACA and guide the attendees through the process of enrolling in one of the local plans on their state’s health insurance marketplace as well as in government-sponsored plans such as Medicaid and Child Health plans. The times and dates are posted on the ahirc.org website, on a new dedicated everyartistinsured.org website (beginning November 15th) and on the websites of local partners as well as through social media.

If you are interested in becoming a partner in EVERY ARTIST INSURED, please contact me at jbrown@actorsfund.org or 917.281.5966.

James Brown is the Director of Health Services at The Actors Fund.

Through the Creative Exchange, Springboard for the Arts provides a free Toolkit with info on how to find, and connect your arts community, to local clinics and those certified to help your community enroll in health insurance. Check out the free Artists’ Health Fair and Guide to Healthcare toolkit here, or contact Springboard’s Healthcare Program Director, Nikki Hunt, at nikki@springboardforthearts.org

The Artists’ Health Fair originated in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN, and has been adapted by groups in Fargo, ND; Columbus, OH; and Pittsburgh, PA, to make lasting connections to their local healthcare resources.