Friday, May 6, 2011

Every Artist Insured

By Jim Brown
(This article originally appeared in the March/April 2011 issue of Art Focus Oklahoma magazine.)

The recent passage of the Affordable Care Act will do more for the health and well-being of the performing arts and entertainment communities than any other piece of legislation in more than fifty years. 

Unlike the vast majority of Americans, who receive their health insurance from employers or government programs, most artists are forced to find coverage for themselves and their families in the individual or direct-pay market.  In most states they can be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and when it is accessible, it is often either unaffordable or so stripped of benefits as to be minimally useful.  For this reason, artists, like other self-employed workers, are twice as likely to be uninsured as members of the general population.

This legislation, which everyone who supports the arts should be supporting as well, directly addresses this imbalance.  Private insurers will no longer be permitted to deny people coverage or cancel their policies based on their claims history.  An essential health benefits package will be available to everyone, with costs shared in order to promote affordability.  Variations in premiums based on age will be limited to 3 to 1.  State-based exchanges will be created to bring the cost-savings of group insurance to individuals and families.  Those of low to moderate means will receive credits and/or subsidies, mentioned above, to keep their premiums to an affordable percentage of their incomes.  Out-of-pocket expenses in any year will be capped at approximately $6,000 for individuals and $12,000 for families, and there will be no annual or lifetime limits on coverage.

Since its passage on March 23, the law has already made subsidies available to small businesses to help insure their employees, created special insurance programs for the previously uninsurable, guaranteed coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and lowered the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients with high drug costs.

Since its creation in 1998, the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) of The Actors Fund has had one goal: to have every artist in this country insured.  With the recent reforms, that goal can now be realized.  Toward that end, the Actors Fund initiated its EVERY ARTIST INSURED tour, with funding from Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) and the National Endowment for the Arts.  It began in Stamford, CT on September 27 and has gone to Kansas City, Minneapolis, Miami, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities.  The full schedule of seminars, as well as downloadable health care guides to almost twenty cities and regions, can be found on the AHIRC website at

The tour will be coming to Oklahoma City on May 7th as part of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s Artist Survival Kit program. The workshop is free to attend and will be held from 2-4 pm at the Individual Artists of Oklahoma gallery, 706 W. Sheridan Ave. in downtown Oklahoma City.  Jim Brown, Director of Health Services at The Actors Fund, will explain how health care reform offers new and affordable options for coverage, particularly for those who must purchase their own insurance.  In addition, Jim will present current options for getting and keeping health insurance and finding affordable health care in Oklahoma. To register, visit or call 405-879-2400.  

Jim Brown has worked in the performing arts, in social services, and in the insurance industry.  He taught in the Drama Department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for thirteen years; was a public information officer for disaster relief in the United States and overseas for the American Red Cross; negotiated provider contracts for Aetna Health Plans, Beech Street Corporation, and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, and served as a managed care regulator for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.  He is currently the Director of Health Services at The Actors Fund where he oversees the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic and runs the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center website (

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