According to one survey by The Future of Music Coalition, about 43% of artists and musicians currently lack health insurance. This is roughly 2.5x higher than the average national rate.
It seems natural to assume that as musicians and freelance creative workers, we’re going to be among those who are most affected by the new reforms around health care.
As of 2014, many of us will not only be able to afford health insurance for the first time, most of us will be required to buy it, or face a small tax for choosing to forgo the stuff.
The Insurance Store is Now Open
Despite the ongoing gridlock in Congress, the new Health Care Exchanges opened on October 1, 2013. This allows all of us to begin comparison shopping for health insurance – and to see if we’re eligible for any kind of Federal subsidy towards buying it.
Although the Federal exchanges had some trouble keeping up with the unexpectedly huge amount of traffic that flooded their servers in the first days, they’ve been getting progressively more stable.
The Economist reports that “glitches may be short-lived. Officials and contractors are rushing to fix them. New York’s exchange seems to have recovered. In one week it quadrupled the capacity of its computer servers, and as of October 8th more than 40,000 New Yorkers had signed up for coverage. But other exchanges are making slower progress.”
Earlier this week, I finished my own application, and was up in no time, comparing the cost of new plans on the New York State exchange. If all goes well, I’ll soon have insurance for the first time in a decade.
To get started yourself, visit https://www.healthcare.gov. I found that the entire sign-up process took about 1/20th the time of doing my taxes. It may not be instant, but it was over a lot sooner than I expected – even with freelance income to account for.
Who Can Expect Big Changes (And Who Will Be Unaffected)
If you’re one of those rare musicians, engineers or producers who already gets health insurance through an employer, don’t even worry about the exchanges. You don’t have to do a thing.
If you’re covered by Medicare or Medicaid, you’re already all set too. If you’re a young person on your parents plan? Cool. Now you can stay that way til you’re 26.
If you already pay for your own insurance and like it just fine, you may want to check out the exchanges anyway. There’s a good chance you’ll end up paying less, particularly if you’re young, have a pre-existing condition, or if you don’t make a ton of money.
For those who have been unable to afford healthcare in the past, there’s a good chance that’s going to change now.
How Much Do the New Plans Cost and What Do They Cover?
If you make anything under $46,000 each year, chances are you’ll also qualify for subsidies that could dramatically reduce what you pay out of pocket.
Coverage plans start with the “Catastrophic” tier, which is now available in high-cost areas like New York City for as little as about $180 a month. (In less expensive states, like Virginia, a similar plan now costs as little as about $40 a month.)
If this sounds like a lot of money to you, chances are you haven’t shopped for insurance before. In my own fruitless attempts to find affordable health insurance over the past decade, I’ve generally found plans that cost almost twice as much and seem to cover even less than these do.
The “Catastrophic” plans, which are available only to those 30 and under, will usually have high deductibles – meaning that if you have a major health emergency you’ll have to pay out over $6,000 in costs out of pocket before insurance kicks in. This is no good for anyone who anticipates recurring medical costs, but it could be a great option for otherwise healthy young people.
Still, even these kinds of plans also offer more coverage than you might expect. Under the Affordable Care Act, annual checkups, major vaccines, essential screenings and many women’s health services are now included in the cost of the plan.