Musicians, uninsured at greater rates than the general population in the United States, are coming to grasp the impact of the Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law known as Obamacare. But like most Americans, they have a lot of learning to do.
A new survey found that 43% of creative artists and 53% of musicians lack health insurance. Conducted in July and August by the Future of Music Coalition and the Artists’ Health Insurance Resource Center, the survey covers musicians as well as visual artists, filmmakers, actors and other creative professionals. Previous FMC surveys found 42% and 33% of musicians were uninsured in 2002 and 2010, respectively.
Unfortunately, artists aren’t well-informed about the nuts and bolts of Obamacare. The FMC/AHIRC survey found that 55% of artists “don’t understand it at all” or are “unsure” how the law would affect them. That number jibes with a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found 47% of Americans have enough information on health-care reform to understand how it will affect them and their families.
“In this way, musicians are like everybody else,” says Andy Bernstein, executive director at HeadCount, a not-for-profit best-known for voter registration that’s working with the Department of Health and Human Services to help educate musicians on the law. “All the surveys say people are confused.”
There’s plenty to be confused about. The law has a long list of provisions, requirements, exclusions and deadlines. Americans have flooded Healthcare.gov, the government’s online portal to state health-care exchanges, seeking information on the costs for buying private insurance. Unable to handle the traffic, the site has been ridiculed since its launch on Oct. 1.
HeadCount, FMC, the Actor’s Fund and other organizations are working to educate the arts community about Obamacare. HeadCount offers a hotline (919-264-0414) to answer questions from artists and managers. (Information can also be found at headcount.org/artists-healthcare). The FMC explains how Obamacare affects artists at health.futureofmusic.org.)
Adam Huttler, founder/executive director of arts services organization Fractured Atlas, says outreach is needed because artists are exposed to bad information, “and health insurance is so opaque to begin with, that it’s an uphill battle. The field is not as well-informed as I wish it were.”
Ironically, the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., could have actually helped these groups. Bernstein believes awareness of Obamacare has increased in the last month due to media coverage of Healthcare.gov as well as Obamacare’s place in the congressional standoff over the debt ceiling.
About four in 10 respondents say they pay for coverage themselves, a figure that is more than six times the 6% of the U.S. population that pays for private insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of Census data from 2011 and 2012.
Levels of insurance vary wildly by state. More than 60% of artists are insured in both Washington and Illinois, while in New York the number is slightly less than 60%. Roughly 50% of artists in California, Colorado and Florida are insured, and about 43% have insurance in Tennessee. Texas lags far behind with roughly 25%.
Cost is the deciding factor for 88% of artists without insurance, according to the FMC survey. Some artists may be in for a surprise when they go price shopping. “The quality and affordability of plans on the exchanges are, for the most part, better than expected,” Huttler says. “Rates have gone down a lot in states like New York and New Jersey.”