Friday, March 19, 2010

Why Health Care Reform Matters to Musicians

This part is dead easy: Musicians typically either don't have health care insurance or they have to buy it out of their salary at retail. If they teach part-time at a large-enough school, they can sometimes buy into the school's health plan out of their salaries. Some orchestras and other companies offer insurance, but those are few.

How much do musicians typically make? Not much. How much do part-time teachers make? Even less. Neither makes enough to buy health insurance out of pocket at today's prices.

If you don't have health insurance and you're subsisting on a musician's wages, you're at risk of being slammed by the one-two punch:
  1. inadequate treatment through free and low-cost clinics and
  2. the extraordinary retail costs of treatment at hospitals and more reputable private offices. These costs are often higher for those without insurance. (When you're paying out of pocket, ask your doctor if there is a way he can lower the cost.
    Sometimes they will.)

Lacking health insurance, the average musician is likely to wind up delaying appropriate treatment, making the illness worse and then having to pay out of pocket for what might have been more easily treatable. If the musician gets treated in the emergency room and can't pay, the rest of us pick it up. Medical bills rise, our premiums go up.

The health care reform that the House is considering takes steps to try to insure the uninsured, control health costs and regulate the increases insurance companies can make to premiums. For all three reasons, musicians should be asking their representatives to support the legislation. If you have insurance now through an organization, please remember your colleagues who are not so lucky and raise your voice.



  1. Under this legislation will a musician with a preexisting condition be able to buy health care insurance?

  2. In theory, yes. I have no confidence in government or in the insurance industry to do the job right. But that said, one of the principal goals of this legislation is to make sure people with preexisting conditions can still get affordable health insurance. Here's a link summarizing the bill's main provisions.