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No individual should have to experience the uncertainty and insecurity that comes with having a lack of access to affordable healthcare, especially during a global pandemic. However, that is the reality that many established, as well as up-and-coming, musicians face every day. In 2010, the Future of Music Coalition conducted a study of 1,450 musicians and found that 33% did not have health insurance coverage.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 49% of Americans receive healthcare coverage from their employers. For many musicians, music is a full-time job, especially given how competitive an industry music is. Since a majority of musicians work on a contract basis, this leaves many artists fending for themselves when obtaining adequate healthcare coverage — many opt to forego coverage altogether.
I work frequently with organizations such as MusiCares and the Blues Foundation to advocate for musicians’ health, witnessing firsthand the obstacles they face in receiving care. Living without healthcare coverage is already a liability to an individual’s overall health, well-being and finances. Foregoing coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially high-risk. As musicians resume tours, they face the potential of contracting COVID-19. The virus can spread particularly fast among crew members as musicians or bands tend to travel in small, tight-knit groups.▼ Article continues below ▼
Fortunately, there are many options out there for musicians seeking healthcare coverage. You just have to find the right one for you!
One option is to purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. However, you must be mindful of deadlines to ensure enrollment in time. You can also familiarize yourself with healthcare-related terminology to make it more digestible. Some good words to get comfortable with include copays, deductibles and premiums, just to name a few.
There are also virtual-first individual plans that offer an affordable alternative for those looking for reliable access to healthcare. For the company I work with, members have no copays on routine primary care, as well as hospitalization protection. There is also access to 24-hour care, national direct primary care through virtual and in-office visits, chiropractic, routine labs, mental health and more.
Depending on where you live and how much you make annually, Medicaid may also be a viable option for healthcare coverage. This can give you access to either free or low-cost care. However, if you qualify and sign up for Medicaid in your state, it might not transfer to other states while you are touring across the country.
Evaluating your personal health is key to determine which path to take when it comes to healthcare coverage. If you are young and healthy, you will want to aim for a plan with a low premium and higher deductibles — this will help reduce the overall cost of your health insurance. However, if you have medical issues, it’s best to find a plan with lower deductibles and more coverage. It may appear to be more expensive, but it can save you a lot of money in doctor visits, prescriptions and more in the long-term. Ultimately, choose the option that is the best for you and your circumstances.
One of the major changes that needs to occur within the healthcare industry is price transparency. Many individuals, including musicians, avoid care because of the perceived costs. What they might not understand is that there’s room to negotiate costs on services such as basic labs, primary care and more.
The need for more robust access to telemedicine services is a must. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in telemedicine services and this benefit can save musicians valuable time and money while on tour.
Fortunately, there are plenty of organizations out there striving to help musicians receive the care that they need. Taking the time to understand the resources available, as well as what you need in order to be happy and healthy, is the first step in the right direction of your healthcare journey.
Dr. Janice Johnston serves as Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder of Redirect Health, where she oversees all medical operations. When it comes to the patient experience, Dr. Johnston spearheads efforts to enhance quality of care while improving administrative efficiencies.
Dr. Johnston is integral to both the telehealth and in-person clinical operations, continually advancing strategies to improve member service and ensure positive patient outcomes. She has been recognized numerous times by AZ Business Magazine in the categories of “Most Influential Women Business Leaders,” “Outstanding Medical Director” and “Telehealth Leader.” She was also recognized as a “Keeping the Blues Alive” award recipient for her work advocating for musicians’ health. Additionally, Dr. Johnston is part of the MusicCares Provider Network through the Grammy Foundation. She holds an M.D. from the University of Toronto and is currently a Health Insider for ABC15.