Questions about the new health exchanges?

The Actors Fund is set to help

Volume 112, No. 10October, 2012

Jim Brown

You’ve read about the new health insurance exchange system. But how do you actually sign up? The insurance companies who offer plans on these new exchanges will set programs called Navigators to help the public.

The types of organizations eligible to become Navigators include unions and community nonprofits like the Actors Fund.

Navigators will be trained in insurance options, eligibility requirements, benefit specifications and enrollment They will also inform enrollees of public programs for which they may be eligible.

Since 1998, the Actors Fund has operated the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (see for everyone in the creative community, assisting musicians, actors and other arists in finding affordable health insurance and, if they are unable to get it, income-based healthcare at community clinics.

Our social workers and health insurance professionals counsel artists about their health insurance options, produce educational materials, offer seminars at union halls and arts organizations around the country, and maintain a comprehensive Internet database of health insurance and health care resources.

The Actors Fund also operates the only full-time free clinic for the uninsured in New York City, at which every patient is tested for eligibility for health insurance programs.

This experience makes the Actors Fund uniquely qualified to become a Navigator, particularly for those entertainment industry union members who have not earned eligibility for health benefits.

To that end, the Actors Fund has contacted the Department of Health and requested designation as a Navigator for the performing and visual arts community.

It is expected that the selection process will begin by the end of 2012.

Together with the entertainment industry unions the Actors Fund has established a task force on the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. The first meeting took place in early August. Representatives from seven unions attended, including Local 802’s vice presidents Tom Olcott and John O’Connor.

The group reviewed the Affordable Care Act’s essential features and how Navigators are expected to function.

Richard Winsten of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein offered an overview of the current status of New York’s exchange program and the main people responsible for its implementation.

The discussion that followed dealt largely with two issues: union support for the Actors Fund to become a Navigator organization for the creative community and the need for an ongoing dialog among industry unions on the effects of the ACA on union benefit plans.

Our goal will be to let union members know how to obtain health insurance coverage through the new exchange system.

The Task Force will meet on a regular basis through the rest of 2012 and throughout 2013 prior to the full implementation of ACA on Jan. 1, 2014, and then on an as-needed basis as the exchange system is rolled out.

The goal is to have every performing artist and entertainment professional in the New York area insured with a comprehensive affordable quality health plan within the next 15 months.

For more info, see

Jim Brown is director of health services for the Actors Fund.