Health Experts Advise: Don’t Quit Your Day Job… At Least Not Yet

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The more time a musician dedicates to songwriting, performing, and related pursuits, the less likely that musician is to have health insurance.

That was the finding of the Future of Music Coalition, host of the DC Policy Day in Washington on Tuesday.  In fact, the group conducted a survey of 1,400 musicians, and found that 34 percent – twice the national average – lacked insurance of any kind.

Of course, this is a picture that is going to change dramatically, thanks to health care reform measures.  But a panel of very knowledgeable health care professionals assembled at the Policy Day were unclear on exactly what that future picture will look like.  Certainly, more musicians will have insurance, but the nuts-and-bolts are largely undetermined at this juncture.  In fact, FMC Education Director and panel moderator Kristin Thomson joked that ‘it remains to be seen’ should have somehow been factored into the panel title.

This is an issue that affects more than just struggling musicians.  As the music industry continues to transform, health care will affect next-generation labels, management groups, and touring companies, among many other entities.  But perhaps health care is just another situation-in-flux for this business, and one that will require constant adjustment across all levels.

That said, this panel offered a very good start.   The experts offered both an early stage primer and huge education on what may be ahead, based on extensive experience dealing with artist-related health care concerns.  On top of that, the Coalition assembled a cast that should be added to everyone’s rolodex (to use an antiquated term), and probably, contacted at a later point.

* Adam Huttler. Executive Director, Fractured Atlas

* Alex Maiolo. HINT Program Coordinator, Future of Music Coalition

* Renata Marinaro. Manager, Health Services Education and Outreach, The Actors Fund

So, should musicians get ready to dial deeper into their craft, and quit their day jobs?  “Not quite yet,” Adam Huttler said, a piece of sage advice that offered a more realistic balance to recent comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Renata Marinaro noted that changes are just starting to roll out now, and the situation remains incredibly early ahead of a 2014 shift.  “Parts of this law are still ambiguous and still being written,” Marinaro relayed during an opening presentation.

Closer to the here-and-now, an interesting take-away was that most uninsured musicians are unaware of lower-cost options.  According to Thomson, that includes state-funded plans, group plans, and a number of other stones that should be unturned immediately.