As a grass-roots arts organization, we'd like to pride ourselves in being as responsive to the needs of our community as we possible can. That said, there is one topic that rises to the surface in every single survey we send out to our constituency and that is the issue of healthcare and health insurance.
With all the legislation on the table regarding healthcare, the issue can get a little murky. However, in our research, we've found a lot of fantastic resources existing in our city and state that can help navigate one's search for quality and affordable healthcare.
In the coming months, the staff at Fresh Arts will be compiling its research into a simple guide like the one developed by The Actor's Fund, in partnership with LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity) for Dallas/Fort Worth. (Take a moment to check it out here.) However, we thought we'd share a few resources we've come across in our journey so you can start exporing your options sooner than later... (Peruse the sections below to see what relates best to you.)
For small businesses and nonprofits:
Every few weeks, a colleague at the helm of a small nonprofit reaches out to ask if we know how to find affordable health insurance. We had pretty good luck in lowering our premiums by working with broker David Smith, who was gracious enough to participate in an info session we hosted on the subject of insurance (recapped here). That said, we have recently become aware of a statewide initiative to address the issue of Texas' large uninsured population by offering discounted options to businesses which haven't been able to previously provide their employees with benefits.
(Statewide in Texas)
UPDATE: The Healthy Texas program has been capped effective August 1, 2012. (Bummer!) Hopefully, alternative options will emerge soon... For more info, see here.
From the website: Healthy Texas was developed to encourage Texas small businesses, even those with just a few employees, to offer health insurance as a benefit. With the help of state dollars and the backing of the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Healthy Texas gives eligible small employers a way to offer health care to their employees.
In summation, this insurance provided through the Healthy Texas program is "guaranteed issue." In other words, the health of the group or its individuals is not a factor in determining premiums. Via backing from the federal government (filtered through TDI), the program can extend discounts of 30-35% on its premium rates. However, there are some eligibility requirements:
- * The company must have 2-50 employees
- * The company cannot have provided group-sponsored benefits for the last 12 months
- * The company must be located in Texas
- * 30% of eligible employees (working 30 hours or more) must earn at or below $33,510
- * The employer must contribute 50% of the premium
- * 60% of eligible employees must participate (which does count those employees who are part-time, receiving spousal benefits, Medicaid, etc.)
But the good news is that some of the best aspects of healthcare reform are reflected in these insurance plans... like preventative services covered at 100%, as well as vision for no extra cost. (And consistent 1099 employees are eligible... which has not historically been the case with small group plans!)
This morning, we met with Gabriel A. Arguello of Celtic Healthy Texas, one of the carriers collaborating with the Texas Department of Insurance on the Healthy Texas program. We have invited Gabriel to speak with interested parties at the upcoming Houston Arts Resource Fair on July 28th (hosted in partnership with Dance Source Houston, DiverseWorks, Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Theatre Alliance, Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP), and Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts-TALA)... but we highly encourage our colleagues to investigate Celtic's Healthy Texas program if you're seeking coverage for your employees.
Get more information and details about Celtic's Healthy Texas program here.
We realize that the majority of the artists with whom we work are independent contractors. Frequently, if you are employed, it is in a part-time or contract capacity, so the issue of health insurance is, of course, a big concern. We can point you in the direction of recommended brokers, but part of the challenge is identifying which programs and services to undercut the cost of an expensive policy or trip to the doctor's office might be right for you. To accomplish that goal, we can point you in two different directions:
(National, two offices to monitor regional resources)
Our friends at the Actor's Fund have done a fabulous job of compiling a great deal of information about obtaining insurance and care. Yes, it takes some time to read through these resources, but there are probably very few places with as much targeted info for artists as the AHIRC website: www.ahirc.org.
(And no, one does not need to be an actor to utilize these services!)
We're thrilled that Daniel Kitowski, Director of Health Services in the Western Region for the Actor's Fund, will also be joining us for the Houston Arts Service Fair in July, where he will be able to answer specific questions about the specific services of the Actor's Fund and AHIRC.
Telephone support: If you've perused the online resources and still have questions, you can reach Dan with specific questions by phone at 323.933.9244 ext.432. (We're pretty impressed that he's made himself available for one-on-one assistance... thanks, Dan!)
We love us some Fractured Atlas! This arts service organization out of NYC also has great information about healthcare reform, discounts to health services, as well as ways to secure individual health insurance. (Remember, Fresh Arts/Spacetaker members receive affiliate memberships to Fractured Atlas, which grants them access to their insurance counseling services.) Visit the health insurance section of Fractured Atlas' website for more info: www.fracturedatlas.org/site/healthcare/navigate
(And guess what! Fractured Atlas' own Emily Gray-- Insurance Program Director-- will also be visiting with us in July at the Houston Arts Resource Fair!)
Their mission from their website: To facilitate access to adequate healthcare for uninsured and underinsured persons in the Harris County service region by establishing a mechanism for healthcare agencies, coalitions, funding entities and advocacy groups to coordinate common administrative and service delivery activities to provide a seamless service delivery system.
Gateway to Care provides a large menu of excellent services, and we feel the Healthcare Navigator would be of special interest to the independent artist community. We realize that when researching your options, the healthcare jargon and endless list of websites and disclaimers can be daunting... just imagine someone holding your hand through the process! Gateway to Care can help find a 'health home' for those in need. That includes case management such as:
- * Outreach
- * Eligibility determination
- * Health promotion
- * Referral
- * Advocacy
- * Facilitation and coordination of services
Eligibility for navigation services: no eligibility requirements to utilize Gateway to Care's navigation services
Also, the Provider Health Network-- a network of physicians and other healthcare providers have agreed to see a limited and defined number of low income, uninsured patients annually, on a pro-bono basis-- is an amazing program offered by Gateway to Care.
Eligibility for Provider Health Network: 150% of federal poverty level (meaning, you-- a family of 1-- make less than $16,755 annually)
Lastly, Gateway to Care's list of local clinics is a fantastic resource!
In closing, we realize this information doesn't solve everyone's problems, but we hope you will find these resources to be helpful. We also want to know that we're hearing you when you tell us this is a big need in our community. In our small way, your local arts service organizations are working on it! Please stay tuned for a "Houston Guide to Affordable Health Care for Artists" and the upcoming Houston Arts Resource Fair... both are small steps towards our collective goals!
The Folks at Fresh Arts