The issue of health insurance has long been a pertinent issue for artists since many do not have any coverage. In fact, a recent study reports that 43 percent of artists – including musicians, of course – are uninsured. That number is more than two times the national average of those that do not have insurance.
Needless to say, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has raised many questions for many in our musician community. No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, the new law likely have an impact on you and your health coverage.
While the new rules are complex and will vary widely depending on individual circumstances, we wanted to touch on some of the important issues that may affect musicians under the new law.
The Insurance “Mandate”
There has been a lot of noise made in the media and elsewhere about how Americans are now required to have health coverage, but saying that coverage is mandated is not exactly true. If you are uninsured and choose to remain uninsured, you will be charged a tax that is used to pay for the added risk to the healthcare system of the uninsured.
This tax will be gradually introduced between 2014 and 2016, and will start at $95 or 1 percent of your income (whichever is greater) in 2014 for individuals. That number goes up to $325 or 2 percent in 2015, and then tops out at $695 or 2.5 percent in 2016. Even that last number will still be less than a year’s worth of insurance coverage for most people.
When Must the Coverage Be Purchased?
To avoid the aforementioned tax penalty, you must purchase healthcare by March 31, 2014. It should also be noted, however, that if you want your coverage to kick in by January 1, 2014 (the earliest it will be available), you must purchase the insurance by December 15, 2013. The healthcare Marketplace exchange is open as of October 1.
Healthcare Exchanges Aim to Lower Cost of Individual Healthcare
Most states have a healthcare exchange that offer insurance coverage to those that do not have coverage through an employer – which includes many musicians. The Marketplace essentially treats individuals as part of a large group being covered, and this is designed to drive down costs.
The actual cost you will pay depends upon your state and your income, among other factors. However, many with low incomes will be eligible for subsidies to help pay for insurance costs.
You Do Not Have to Use the Exchange
If you currently are insured under an employer, or have purchased your own insurance, you are under no obligation to shop for a new plan in the exchange. However, particularly for those that purchase insurance on their own, it is a good idea to compare the prices and coverage available in your state to your current plan.
How to Shop for Insurance
Healthcare.gov was specifically set up for those that want to shop for healthcare online. Though the site was plagued by glitches at first launch, it would be expected that these will be ironed out over time. You can also shop on the phone by calling 1-800-318-2596, or download a paper application you can fill out. Additionally, every state has locations you can visit for in-person consultations.
Again, the new laws and options are complex and will vary widely, but there are a slew of resources you can take advantage of. In addition to the aforementioned Healthcare.gov, you can also find more information specific to musicians on the Artists and the Affordable Care Act page set up by the Future of Music Coalition.