A number of musicians have been alerted that the stand-alone Blue Cross hospitalization policy many have used to supplement the Local 802 major medical plan will be discontinued effective Jan. 1, 2014. The hospitalization-only policy is not compliant with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) because it is not comprehensive insurance; thus it is being discontinued. This does not apply to musicians who are covered by Plan A+ with hospitalization or who have the hospitalization coverage as part of a collective bargaining agreement. It also does not apply to Broadway musicians whose Blue Cross coverage is grand-fathered because their shows predates the 2007 contract. This only applies to people who buy the policy on their own.
If you are losing this coverage there are a couple of things you can do.
1. You can buy into an HMO that the Local 802 health plan offers as an alternative to the regular coverage. The HMO is fully compliant with the law, but may be unaffordable for many folks.
2. Beginning Oct. 1 you can shop for coverage on the state exchanges, which are the new health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. For an introduction to the exchanges, you can read an article I wrote for Allegro last October at www.bitly.com/exchanges-story. The exchanges will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The Web site for the New York exchange is www.HealthBenefitExchange.ny.gov. New Jersey has opted not to run its own exchange, so the federal government is going to do it. The Web site for the New Jersey exchange is www.HealthInsurance.org/new_jersey-state-health-insurance-exchange. If your income falls below four times the federal poverty guidelines ($94,200 for a family of four), you will be eligible for a federal subsidy to help you pay for insurance from the exchanges. You can find out your eligibility for the subsidy here: www.kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator.
Until now, residents of New York could buy stand-alone hospitalization, while residents of New Jersey could not. Some New Jersey musicians who used to live in New York and who bought into the stand-alone hospitalization plan years ago when Local 802 had a group plan still have it, though their fellow New Jersey residents were locked out of it. The health fund allowed New Jersey musicians to access up to 90 percent of the money contributed on their behalf by employers, or 90 percent of the cost of buying insurance, whichever was less. New Yorkers were not allowed access to these funds because they could buy the hospitalization policy. Now that the hospitalization policy will be unavailable to everyone, the fund trustees will consider other options when they meet on Sept. 13. This will be one of many changes to the Local 802 plan that will be considered, since much of the coverage currently offered is not comprehensive and therefore not compliant.
Martha Hyde is a multi-woodwind player who performs on Broadway. A member of Local 802, she is also a trustee on the Local 802 Health Benefits Fund. Martha invites Local 802 members who have questions about this article to e-mail her at EarMar4@verizon.net.