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Health Care for Musicians: What’s Next?

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This post authored by FMC Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman.

“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax.” Unless you’ve been living under a Marshall stack, chances are you heard these historic words from Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court, reaffirming President Obama’s controversial effort to bring all Americans into the health care system. Alongside the prospect of more affordable health care premiums and insurance companies that are unable to deny coverage to the sick, we at FMC are pleased the bill was largely upheld. Why? Because among the Americans that stand to benefit from the shiny new law are a group of folks we happen to care an awful lot about — musicians.

Better and more affordable access to health care for musicians is something we have championed for over a decade. In 2002, we released the first major study demonstrating that musicians lacked health coverage at a much higher rate than the rest of the US population. In 2010, while Washington was embroiled in a contentious debate over this issue, we again provided real data demonstrating how acute the problem is and what factors make it difficult for musicians to access coverage. Today, we continue to provide free information to artists about their health care options.

The reasons that so many musicians lack health coverage are largely structural. Musicians routinely work as independent contractors, and supplement their music income with part time employment, which generally leaves employer-provided health coverage out of the equation. Musicians may be able to purchase individual insurance plans privately, but many report that this option is out of their reach financially. While cost is a significant barrier, musicians’ lack of awareness about plans, options and strategies for obtaining coverage is also a factor.

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