Part 1: Getting Insured.
By Stephanie Wolf.
A dancer’s ability to work and earn income is dependent on optimal health and physical condition. Therefore, proper healthcare is essential for longevity in the dance profession. But, unfortunately, many American dancers are under or uninsured due to the rising costs of healthcare and the complexity of applying for an insurance plan. Finding affordable health insurance is a dizzying feat, especially for freelance dancers who lack the option of obtaining insurance through their employers. The Internet is inundated with information and the nation’s capital is all a buzz with talk of healthcare reform, but what does it all mean?
Many dancers fall into the 10 to 11% of Americans who get their insurance through the individual healthcare market and dancers are amongst the highest percentage of uninsured artists. High premiums make it challenging to find the right plan. Additionally, because of the intense physicality of the dance profession, many dancers have difficulty getting approved for a plan because of a pre-existing condition. Organizations such as the Actor’s Fund, Media Bistro, TEIGIT, the Freelancer’s Union, and other artist-based unions provide tools and resources for healthcare options, playing a role in ensuring the health of American artists.
The Actor’s Fund (AF) is at the forefront of this cause – helping more than 400,000 performers every year gain access to healthcare – and gears a lot of their services towards dancers. Since 1998, AF has worked with dancers, and now has several comprehensive online tools and one-to-one counseling options to help dancers continue to perform at their best. One tool is the Artists’ Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC), which provides listings for workshops, counseling, and an online database of plans, subsidized healthcare, and government programs for each state. Spearheading these programs is AF’s Director of Healthcare Services James Brown who has an extensive background in health insurance and is a healthcare regulator in New Jersey.
Currently, AF is conducting a large dancer healthcare initiative through a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation. The project involves workshops and seminars in 10 dance-centric cities around the country: Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Brown will conduct the workshops and engage with both dancers and people who run dance organizations in conversations about the laws and availability of health insurance in each of their corresponding cities. AF is also working on creating webinars for those that can’t attend the workshops.
On the individual level, Brown will address dancers’ questions and concerns about finding affordable health insurance. Understanding that health insurance is “a local business,” he’ll give details on the laws, availability, and costs surrounding individual plans. Brown will also discuss affordable or free healthcare options available in each city, such as clinics and pharmaceutical programs.
For those in managerial positions, Brown will break down the Small Business Health Insurance Subsidy, which is part of the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obama Care. “This is an opportune time for dance organizations,” says Brown of the healthcare reform, because it might give small dance companies the ability to afford coverage for their dancers. This piece of legislation offers small businesses and arts organizations, who pay at least 50% of their employee’s health insurance costs, the chance to receive a subsidy from the government to help cover the extra expense. Brown will walk arts administrators through the eligibility factors, the protocol of applying, and what aspects need to be discussed with an accountant.
On a regular basis, AF also conducts individual healthcare counseling. Dancers can access these services by either calling the fund at 1-800-798-8447 ext. 280 or e-mailing Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brown will discuss individual coverage options, as well as coverage for spouses, partners, or family members.
However, many dancers simply can’t afford insurance. For these individuals there are a number of free or sliding scale based healthcare facilities throughout the country. Dancers residing in Manhattan can receive treatment at the Al Hirschfeld Clinic, an AF run clinic in Midtown. The facility is New York’s only completely free clinic and administers healthcare services for anyone in the performing arts or entertainment industry who “has done a certain amount of work over the past two years.” Dr. James Spears, a doctor and professor with NY Presbyterian Hospital, is the full-time medical director and the clinic has a network of specialists through a program called Broadway Docs. There are a number of similar clinics throughout the country, including the Cleveland Free Clinic, San Francisco Community Consortium, and the Performing Arts Clinic in Los Angeles.
AF also offers a variety of other services for socio-economic issues that come with being a performing artist. Recently, the fund collaborated with Broadway and television star Bebe Neuwirth for a program called Dancers’ Resources – helping dancers cope with being injured and the recovery process.
The information is overwhelming, but the reassuring aspect is that there are organizations and individuals striving to give dancers the healthcare they deserve. Nevertheless, it’s crucial for dancers to stay informed on healthcare changes currently being debated in Washington. The evolution of Obama Care can, and likely will, greatly impact the dance community. Starting in January 2014, the laws and guidelines surrounding healthcare in this country will change drastically, especially if the Supreme Court rules in favor of a major mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Thus, the ‘game,’ as we know it, will change.
Get informed about Obama Care and the future of American healthcare in part 2 of “Healthcare for Dancers” – out in June’s issue!
Resources to get insured or access to affordable healthcare:
- The Actor’s Fund: actorsfund.org
- Dancers’ Health Insurance Research Center: dhirc.org
- Artists’ Health Insurance Research Center: ahirc.org
- The Freelancers Union: freelancersunion.org
- Media Bistro: mediabistro.org
- TEIGIT: teigit.com
- Health Pass (for small business owners or sole proprietors): healthpass.com
- Needy Meds (free and low-cost medications): needymeds.org
- Some major retailers offer inexpensive medication, such as Target and Wal-Mart
- The National Mental Health Service Locator: store.sarnhsa.gov/mhlocator
- The Performing Arts Clinic in LA: brighamandwomens.org/Departments_and_Services/neurology/services/PerformingArtsClinic.aspx
- The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland: thefreeclinic.org/
- The San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium: sfccc.org
Top image © Andre Blais | Dreamstime.com