You may have already heard the news about the unfortunate death of multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Jay Bennett, whose talents graced the Wilco records Being There, Summerteeth and the seminal Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. (Bennett's departure from the band is partially documented in director Sam Jones' Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.)
Post-Wilco, Bennett released several solo albums and produced and/or guest performed on a wide range of releases from other artists. Bennett died on Sunday, May 24, apparently in his sleep. While the actual cause of death is unknown pending autopsy, Bennett had some persistent health problems, and had recently posted on his MySpace blog about his need for emergency hip surgery and the difficulties in scheduling the operation due to his lack of health insurance.
Although we're not trying to make a connection between Bennett's death and his lack of health insurance, we can say this continues to be a huge problem for American musicians, and the uninsured in general. It's not hard to picture how the lack of health insurance could impact any one of us. You might delay seeking professional help for even the most minor medical or dental issues because the cost of care without insurance is so expensive. Minor issues can quickly become major issues, at which point you might be faced with a medical emergency, and no safety net. These conditions can be complicated in the life of a working musician, what with the constant travel, wacky hours, heavy equipment, and a typically unsteady paycheck. This makes health insurance even more important, yet sadly more elusive.
No matter how you slice it, not having health insurance is a recipe for tragedy. This is why we started our Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) program in 2005 to help musicians understand their health insurance options. Now, we know the current system is far from perfect. But we also know that too many artists simply believe that health insurance is too hard to get or too complicated/time consuming to comprehend. We figured that if musicians had access to free, high-quality information about health insurance, it would be a start to addressing a major problem.
After scheduling an appointment on the HINT website (which also contains lots of useful, musician-friendly info), artists get a call from health insurance experts Alex Maiolo or Chris Stephenson, who go over an individual's options on case-by-case, state-by-state basis. Alex and Chris are also musicians who know what it's like to juggle artistic ambitions with more mundane (but no less important) concerns like making sure you've got some kind of coverage in case of an unforeseen health crisis.
Click here to learn more about HINT, health insurance in general and to schedule an appointment with our musician experts.
Our sincere condolences to Jay Bennett's friends, family and musical associates -- he surely will be missed.