In the national debate over health care and the Affordable Care Act, one sliver of the population has received relatively little attention: musicians, artists and other creative workers, who are often self-employed and frequently uninsured. A recent survey by two arts groups found that 43 percent of artists of all kinds said they had no health insurance; for musicians, the number was 53 percent. The national average, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, is 17.7 percent.
A network of advocates and industry organizations are working to guide musicians through the changes to the national health care system, which, among other things, extends young people’s coverage under their parents’ policies and offers subsidies for buying insurance plans. But the effort remains small, and musicians, managers and other business representatives said that they — like much of the nation — were simply confused by it all.
Plenty of musicians receive health insurance through day jobs, spouses or unions. But many fall through the cracks, often because they are self-employed, said Kristin Thomson, a consultant to the Future of Music Coalition, which conducted the insurance survey with the Actors Fund.
“Even major-label artists are not employed by the labels, and don’t get what the employees at those companies get,” Ms. Thomson said. “It’s a structural problem that’s been in place a long, long time.”
The Affordable Care Act has its supporters in the music world. Jennifer Hudson has been a part of its national publicity campaign, and Chris Walla, the guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie, said that he signed up for a new plan through the state exchange in Washington, where he lives.
“This is an indie-rock issue,” Mr. Walla said in an interview. “It’s right at the center of your life as an independent musician, and it’s going to make it a little easier to do what we do for a living.”
Among the organizations that are coaching musicians through the new health plan are HeadCount, whose main activity is voter registration; the Actors Fund, which works with artists of all kinds; and MusiCares, a charity founded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the organization behind the Grammy Awards), which has led workshops in Nashville and New York.