in 2011, actress lynda berg did not earn enough money to qualify for health insurance through her union. And she, on her own, had trouble finding a plan that she could afford because she’s a breast cancer survivor, considered a pre-existing condition.
The uncertainty of not having a health plan was stressful and sometimes costly, she recalls. A few years ago she fell and broke her hand and elbow and ended up paying $4000 for her medical care.
-for the record: insurance for actors: in the business section of may 23, an article on obamacare in the l.a. The entertainment industry gave the first name of Kristen Madsen, Senior Vice President of Musicares, as Krista. -But all that has changed for Berg, 59. In March, she went online, signed up for a policy through California Cover, the state’s new health insurance marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act, and is now receiving medical care.
More than most people, workers in the area’s vast entertainment industry are poised to benefit from the federal health care law. But as the new law takes effect, the massive overhaul has also caused considerable confusion and anxiety about how to navigate a host of new health care options.
For decades, artists have flocked to the state, with many surviving while trying to get their big break. According to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts, California has the largest number of artists in the country.
The same study found that more than 30% of artists are self-employed compared to 10% of the general population, and uninsured rates tend to be higher among the self-employed than among the self-employed. others.
In the industry, actors and other movie workers often get insurance through their unions. but many say they don’t get enough hours or steady work as actors to meet the income requirements to apply.
For example, according to data from sag-aftra, the nation’s largest union of actors, broadcasters, and recording artists, only about 15% of members qualify for health insurance through the union.
“When people think of hollywood, they think of george clooney and meryl streep, but that’s not the average person in this city,” said dan kitowski, director of health services for the western region of the actor’s fund, a National nonprofit organization that advocates for the Affordable Care Act.
The federal law that took effect this year made it easier for people to buy health insurance on their own because coverage is guaranteed regardless of pre-existing health conditions and subsidies are available to make premiums more affordable.
which creates a new range of options for people who are self-employed or who may have kept a job they didn’t like just for the benefits, said laura baker, senior health and benefits consultant at mercer consulting in the angels. A Harvard study estimated that 11 million Americans were stuck in a so-called “job lockout”: they couldn’t leave their jobs for fear of losing their health benefits.
“It’s certainly a whole new world for some,” Baker said.
Actress Berg, who lives in Beverlywood, now pays a premium of $145 a month for her Blue Shield of California plan. she is using her coverage to get prescriptions for $5 a month that she used to pay more than $100 for. She plans to go to the doctor’s office soon for a checkup that she has been putting off.
“It’s a great blessing for actors and anyone who doesn’t have insurance,” he said. “Even if you get a plan with a large deductible, at least you have that safety net…and you won’t be in debt for the next seven years.”
At a recent workshop at the Los Angeles office of the Actors Fund, actors and artists tried to sort through their new options.
In a room with a mural of the hollywood sign on one wall, they asked specific questions about their unpredictable lifestyles: can they find doctors when they’re on tour? Are specialists, such as throat doctors for singers, covered? Can they switch in and out of union health coverage, or change plans as their income changes from job to job?
jorge bermúdez, a percussionist who lives in baldwin park, asked what would happen if he couldn’t pay his premium for a month. she jumps from gig to gig and is afraid of losing coverage for her if she’s a few weeks late. He hasn’t had health insurance since he and his wife divorced several years ago, and he hasn’t been able to get a much-needed hearing aid.
In the past, fluctuating incomes meant that many artists like Bermúdez, who couldn’t afford their own health plans, simply ran out of them when their union insurance or other options expired. but now, many can afford individual plans and are beginning to implement them.
thousands of angelenos like berg signed up for a health plan during obamacare open enrollment this year. Los Angeles County led the state in registrations, with more than 400,000 registered through the state exchange. the county accounted for nearly 30% of the statewide total of 1.4 million.
Obamacare open enrollment ended in March, but people who lose their job, or get married, have a baby, move, or have any other serious change in circumstances, can enroll in a plan year-round. open enrollment starts again in November.
krista madsen, senior vice president of musicares, the charitable arm of the grammys that provides health services to musicians, said that historically, more than 75% of her clients report having no insurance. Not having health insurance has long been a part of an artist’s life, though health problems can have a particularly debilitating effect on artists’ careers.
“If you think of your body as your work tool,” Madsen said, “it’s more important if you have a problem with your vocal cords or your hearing.”