But also, for artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers, it can be a struggle to find health insurance for themselves and their families. Without the benefits of working at a company, an artist might find it hard to locate affordable health care. And tagging onto a partner’s or family member’s benefits might not be the best answer.
In general, Texas ranks as the worst state for health insurance coverage. So, creative folks, don’t beat yourself up for not being covered. According to Kaiser State Health Facts, in 2009–2010, some 6.2 million Texans were uninsured. That’s 25 percent of Texas’ population compared to the nation’s average of 16 percent. Many factors contribute to this high number, including a high number of uninsured foreign-born Texans and a high number of (low-paying) service and retail jobs, but it is still difficult for many in the Lone Star State to fund basic doctors’ appointments and prescriptions.
Fortunately, there is still hope for those who are employed by the arts. There are several options to keep in mind while shopping for the right health care coverage. In addition, there are several resources the creative community can go to for more answers.
A few basic routes for the uninsured or underinsured include private or direct-purchase plans, employment/ organization-related coverage, and community/nonprofit organizations that can alleviate health care costs.
If you can afford private insurance, there are usually two options:
• HMO (health maintenance organizations) plans offer a variety of health coverage but limit you only to a network of health providers and doctors.
• PPO (preferred provider organizations) plans are similar to HMOs, in that you can choose from among a network of doctors, hospitals and other providers. However, you also have the option to choose from “out-of-network” providers, but you will probably have to pay more.
Services vary from plan to plan. Private insurance costs can include premiums, copays, coinsurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Keep in mind that most private insurers can refuse coverage based on previous or current health status, exclude a preexisting condition from coverage, or charge you more based on your age, gender or preexisting condition.
EMPLOYMENT/ORGANIZATION- RELATED COVERAGE
Usually, one of the perks that comes with being employed by a company is group insurance. The worker pays part of the cost and the employer pays the rest. However, preexisting conditions can be tricky: They may not be covered by your group’s insurance, or a waiting period is involved.
Small employers in Texas, with 2 to 50 full-time employees, are guaranteed the right to buy group coverage regardless of their employees’ health status. It can be another route for those who might be rejected for individual insurance.
Also, keep in mind that state regulations and a federal law called COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allow employees to continue receiving benefits even after they have left a job. However, former employees who choose to continue their coverage through COBRA must pay the full cost of the plan. It may be expensive. but it might be helpful to keep, especially if you have a preexisting condition.
Probably the best option for an artist looking for health insurance is joining a union, guild or other organization that helps artists in a particular field. Entertainment industry unions, for example, can provide health insurance to its members, depending on how much union work they contribute.
Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM)
People’s Community Clinic in Austin
2909 N. IH-35 Austin, TX
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild www.sagaftra.org
The Actors Fund