Midwestern readers may have already come across this Op-Ed in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune about musicians and health insurance. The piece, authored by Nan Warshaw (co-owner of Chicago indie label Bloodshot Records) and Alex Maiolo (project coordinator for FMC's Health Insurance Navigation Tool, or HINT), talks about how the lack of affordable insurance is having a devastating impact on the creative community.
We think the article is interesting because instead of a "pity the poor musicians" angle, it portrays artists as what they actually are: entrepreneurs who are trying to compete in an open marketplace, like Americans are encouraged to do. Yet because to the current health insurance landscape, it is exceedingly difficult for most musicians to pursue their craft.
A 2003 survey of 2,700 U.S. musicians conducted by Future of Music Coalition found that 45 percent lacked adequate health coverage. The reasons are not entirely unexpected: In addition to cost, many musicians put off getting health insurance because they assume it's unattainable or they don't know where to start. Many think it's something that they can't afford now and will have to wait and get later. But that "later" can come pretty quick if your tour van hits a patch of ice.
In America, we're taught to believe that big ideas and entrepreneurship are good things, but it does you little good if you can't strike out on your own to pursue them in a competitive marketplace. And the lack of affordable, portable health insurance is, at its heart, anti-competitive. Say you're working for a big company but you've got your own innovation that you want to develop. Yet you can't break out on your own, because your family would lose its health insurance coverage. Your great idea is locked up.
The same goes for musicians. Even if artists have something incredible to offer, they are often forced to stay in a job where -- if they're lucky -- they have stable coverage. This isn't particularly beneficial to employers; someone else could probably use that job, and it's terrible for musicians. This strategy of tying health insurance to employers has affected the entire economy, not to mention the free flow of ideas. Hindering entrepreneurship is hardly an American virtue. At least, it shouldn't be.
The Op-Ed goes on to describe how musicians are actually indicative of the new American workforce: they're freelance or contract-based workers and are increasingly mobile. The lack of health insurance standards can prevent not only artists, but other contract employees -- everyone from web designers to landscapers to educational facilitators -- from taking their own idea or innovation to the marketplace.
You can check out the article here.
And if you're a musician who's curious about your health insurance options, we encourage you to visit our HINT page, where there's tons of easy-to-digest information. You can also fill out a simple online phone to receive a FREE, confidential phone consultation from one of health insurance experts (who also happen to be musicians). HINT doesn't sell or recommend specific insurance, but it can provide you with high-quality information about your options on a case-by-case, state-by state basis. Because you can't make a smart decision unless you know what the possibilities are.