In today’s world of rising medical costs, the need for health insurance has never been more important. Ideally, we would live in a society where health care is a basic right and free for all. Local 802 has tried to hold this up as a goal and has supported candidates along this issue. Since we don’t live in the ideal world yet, at least we hope that musicians and other artists don’t have to pay for their own health insurance. That’s where Local 802’s Health Benefits Plan comes in. In basic terms, the more union gigs you play, the more credit you accumulate towards one of the union’s health plans. If you play enough union gigs, the plan provides you with coverage.
However, in reality, many members don’t play enough union gigs to qualify. When that happens, it is important to know about other low-cost options so that you are never without coverage entirely. It is especially important for musicians — who need their ears, eyes, hands, lungs and overall physical health — to make their living and do what they love.
The Actors’ Fund maintains a free, online health insurance resource for people working in the arts. The Web site is called “Access to Health Insurance/Resources for Care” or AHIRC, and it’s at www.ahirc.org. It’s a comprehensive look at health insurance for artists in America. The Musicians’ Assistance Program encourages all Local 802 members to familiarize themselves with this Web site. Knowing you have options is half the battle of staying insured and caring for your professional and personal well being. We’d like to highlight a few important features of the site.
When you first visit www.ahirc.org, you will see a map of the United States and a brief description of the AHIRC resource. Because health insurance laws vary so widely from state to state, it is essential to select the state in which you live as your point of entry into the site. This article will address many of the features available to New York residents, although there is extensive information on the site for residents throughout the country.
If you click on New York (or any other state), you will be taken to that state’s main page. You will see a menu across the top of the page which can direct you to a multitude of national and state-by-state resources, including information on managing medical debt, your privacy rights as a consumer, and information on universal health care initiatives. It is important to know that by law, every New Yorker is guaranteed the right to buy health insurance. New Yorkers cannot be discriminated against because of their health status or age.
Below this menu is a box that says “Start Here.” We recommend doing so because the links in this box contain an essential overview for all New Yorkers seeking health insurance. Clicking on Quick Health Insurance Guide for New Yorkers (www.ahirc.org/quickguide.html) or Quick Health Insurance Guide for New York Seniors (www.ahirc.org/seniors.html) will take you to a clear, easy-to-read page of frequently asked questions about health insurance.
This quick guide will be your lifeline should you find yourself uninsured. For seniors, it will help you demystify Medicare benefits, prescription drug coverage, and the application processes involved in Medicare and supplemental coverage plans. For New Yorkers under 65, the quick guide will disentangle the array of options that may be available to you. These include:
- Private insurance through HMO’s and Point of Service Plans (POS’s);
- Insurance through associations, including Working Today, a national nonprofit organization offering health insurance and other benefits to independent workers (www.FreelancersUnion.org);
- Insurance through income-eligible programs such as Healthy NY, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, Medicaid and others.
As you will see, the number of choices can be dizzying but AHIRC’s centralized, comprehensive and easy-to-navigate resource can help you make these important decisions. Remember, if you don’t have access to the Internet from home, Local 802 has a computer on the fourth floor that is free and available to members for their use.
Decisions about your health and well-being should never be left up to chance. The Musicians’ Assistance Program is available to help you review, evaluate and apply for any of these programs or for Local 802’s own plan if you require assistance doing so. Just call us at (212) 397-4802 or stop by our office on the sixth floor Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays between 9:30 and 5 to set up an appointment.
Emma Ditrinco is the intern at the Musicians’ Assistance Program.