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How Can Artists Get Health Care Coverage?

ARTS SHRINK is a bi-weekly column designed to answer questions from artists and arts groups related to their arts business and practice. The Arts Shrink brings two decades of experience as an arts consultant, teacher, and mentor to the table as she responds your questions.

Good news! Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare) starts tomorrow, November 15th and ends February 15, 2015. If you're like me and want your health insurance to begin as soon as possible, which in this case is January 1, 2015, then you must submit your application by December 15th. I've started mine already and was pleasantly surprised by a couple of things 1.) the application is not as complicated as I had imagined and 2.) there's help out there if you need it. In fact, there is an insurance brokerage company in Los Angeles called Artist Insurance Services. When I asked owner Michael Grodsky why he specializes in working with artists he replied "I choose to serve artists and arts organization due to my background as a performing musician." Grodsky combines his knowledge of the arts -- he has a Bachelor's in Classical Guitar Performance and a Master's in Music Theory and Composition -- with insurance expertise to effectively serve the creative community.

If you live outside of California, you should be able to find a health insurance broker in your area who can help you too. Insurance companies pay insurance brokers so the services they provide to you are free.

If you live anywhere in California and hope to take advantage of the premium assistance (a reduction in your monthly insurance bill) offered through the Affordable Care Act, you will apply via the Covered California website. Many states have their own websites such as Kynect in Kentucky or Healthy Michigan in Michigan. If the state you live in doesn't have its own website, you will apply through the national healthcare website. If you're just not sure where to apply, you can easily find out by doing a simple online search using the Affordable Care Act and the name of your state as your parameters.

Do you qualify for premium assistance, you ask? This might help:

  • If you are an individual who thinks you'll make less than$16,105 in 2015, you do NOT qualify for premium assistance; but you may qualify for free Medi-Cal or Mediciad.
  • If you are an individual expecting to earn between $16,105 and $46,680 in 2015, you qualify for premium assistance.
  • If you are a family of four, your maximum allowable projectedincome is $94,200.
  • Various iterations of the above have their own allowable maximums.

If you don't think you will qualify for premium assistance you can still get health insurance either through the appropriate website or by applying directly to an insurance company. If you have questions about premium assistance, Medi-Cal, or Medicaid you will find answers to basic questions here.

Don't worry too much about the details at this point, it will all fall into place if you take it one step at a time.

There was a financial question that confused me a little, so I'll share what I learned with you. The question was something like "What is your 2015 projected monthly income?" As a freelancer, I don't know how much money I'm going to make next year; and my income will probably vary each month. I imagine that many of you, as artists, are in the same boat. Not to worry, make an informed guess about how much money you will make in 2015 based on what you've made in the past and what projects you imagine you'll be working on next year. Now divide that number by twelve. That's your monthly projected income. There will be similar questions about your business expenses; use the same process there too.

You'll choose your plan from one of the four categories that are offered. The categories are called Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. (There is also a Catastrophic plan available for those of you who are under 30). The Bronze level offers the basic coverage with high deductibles and lower premiums, the Silver level provides more coverage, lower deductibles and higher premiums, and so on. There are a variety of insurance companies to choose from at each level.

When making your decision about coverage levels and insurance providers you should consider what you can afford, what your health needs are and whether or not you have a preferred doctor you'd like to continue using. If that's the case, call your Doctor's office to find out if they are in-network with any plans offered through your state insurance exchange.

So set aside an hour or so, line up a couple of beverages, get your application started, ask for help if you need it and, before you know it, you'll be on your way to health coverage. Won't that feel great?

Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send an email here.

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