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Got Health Unsure-ance?

Following is the article I & handed out at the Medicate U.S. Health Insurance Awareness benefit we on August 20th.

Got Health Unsure-ance?
Examining the Health Insurance issue from the P.O.V. of Artists, Entrepreneurs & Other Free Spirits Responsible For Their Own Health Care
By Eric Haase (web publisher, musician & e-journalist)

    Independents', & artists’ likely lack of health insurance can make them dependent. Here's what entrepreneurs & artists may want to know about medical insurance before they end up in the somewhat tragic situation this formerly independent writer finds himself in.

   The current health insurance crisis in the U.S. is again a heated subject of debate among political parties jockeying for position this election year. The number of Americans without medical insurance being sound-bitten in many a campaign ad is 43 million.

However, counting the number of uninsured Americans is also a subject of debate. The St. Pete Times ran a story on June 20th that examined how tricky it is to count the uninsured, never mind what to do about us. The article, entitled "More Lack Health Insurance", by Sherri Ackerman & Guy Boulton, also reported that the working poor are hardest hit, but that they are not alone. It is not at all comforting to this writer to know he's not alone in this precarious situation. The St. Pete Times article went on the report that different studies, give different numbers, with the current high water mark at around 43.6 million and 21 million on the low end.

   I propose a study to investigate how many of these millions are people who choose to live outside the Kafkaesque cog & gear systems of the corporate workplace. This is where I've always chosen to live.

   Those who are among the independent spirited & in good health, (as I was) may also find it a challenge to spend a few hundred dollars a month on something they feel they don't really use when they could be investing that money in business ventures, art projects, or perhaps the dilemma is paying for health insurance or eating well enough so they don't wind up at the doctor's office. These were my attitudes.. However, if you read on you'll find out how they failed this writer.

  It's important that young people in good health learn about health insurance options so they don't wind up in a situation like mine. I'm newly deemed "uninsurable" because of my recent health crisis which occurred while I was temporarily uninsured. If interested, you can read about the emergency brain surgery to remove a burst aneurysm by clicking here.

    If your health is reasonable with no major pre-existing conditions, then most carriers will insure you. It's important to get insured while in this situation because many policies are "permanent", meaning that once you're insured, they can't drop you for medical conditions which befall you while covered. However, consumers must become educated about health insurance policies & terminology.

   Consumers must be able to read between the lines of their policy a & understand industry verbiage. Know what's being agreed upon & how a policy covers you in good times & bad.

    Persons who work for large companies and corporations will often have access to health insurance at reduced rates through their employer's group coverage plans or as part of a benefits package. In these situations coverage is often at least partly paid for by the employer with a percentage of the employee's pay going towards their premium. These systems have their pros & cons. It still behooves the employee to know about the type of coverage that they have & to what extent they are covered (or responsible for co-payments depending on what afflictions befall them).

    Another major consideration is what control the insured has vs. what control the insurance company has with regard to the care the insured can receive & from whom. There have been many horror stories about HMO fine print & patients who don't have access to their choice of care or caregivers because they are not part of their provider's HMO system.

    So it all goes back to money & let the buyer beware. With the recent Supreme Court decision limiting patients' rights to sue HMO's, let the buyer beware now, more than ever.

    Money & lifestyle are often two major reasons why people become independent entrepreneurs or artists. With the corporate scandals of recent years that have seen hardworking, loyal employees loose their life savings while corporate executives bail in golden parachutes, we may see even more people refuse the corporate workaday life & set out on their own self sustenance adventures.

    It has been said that one will never get rich working for someone else, (You'll only help those you're working for get richer). However, being an entrepreneur in this country means you're more likely to be living without or with inadequate medical insurance which may also mean you're likely to wind up in substantial & sometimes insurmountable debt in the event of a serious medical emergency (As in the case of you're humble reporter). This makes the independent spirited among us at risk of becoming dependent on others if a medical crisis befalls them while uninsured or underinsured.

    In my case, it was my being unsure about what type of insurance coverage I absolutely needed to carry to protect me in the event of a major crisis vs. paying for a lot of coverage I felt I didn't really need. I had always been a really healthy guy. I'd never been seriously ill. I'm a raw food vegetarian with a super high level of energy that hadn't had to see a doctor since birth, so why was I paying all this money in health insurance. My self-debate and research into this issue left me uninsured for a brief period of time.

    Unfortunately, it was within that brief lapse during which I was trying to educate myself about insurance that I got hit with a medical emergency that resulted in a really expensive haircut. (That's my little joke about having my head shaved so they could cut into my brain to save my skinny butt.
continued: Top of Next Column..

    There are many types of health insurance plans and lots of legalese that goes along with them. So where can one go to sort it all out and find a plan that is sufficient for their independent situation while also being affordable.

    Ironically, the 2003 SXSW music conference, (which I was supposed to play at with my band, Auditorium; ) featured a panel discussion on the musician/health care crises that would have answered these questions for me. And I would have been there had my brain not blown up. Instead I read the following E-mail from a hospital bed.

From: Rockrap@aol.com
Subject: Music and Health Care (what are we going to do about it?)

    On March 19th, a very important panel discussion, "Musicians and
Health Care," was held at the South by Southwest conference in Austin,
Texas.Present were artists, managers, entertainment union leaders, music
journalists, and health care activists. The consensus of the discussion was two things.

First - we must embrace every effort to bring health care to musicians right now,
even though we all realize how flawed our health care system is.
Second - we must
promote the widest possible discussion of how to fundamentally solve the
health care crisis.

    This panel discussion was being replicated in many cities. If you would like to investigate these events, visit rockrap.com, Or think about how to organize people in your city to come together for similar discussion & action.

    What do we, as artists & others in the music industry, do about our lack of health care?
Good question. What follows is what we have come up with so far. Let us know what we are leaving out.

1. If you are searching for a health care plan, check out Access to Health Insurance/Resources for Care, a great resource base put together by the Actors Fund.
Go to the AHIRC web site () & click on your state to
find out what's available.

2. Rock A Mole Productions has done some ground-breaking research and discovered that there are over one thousand benefits each week in America done by musicians for other musicians in health crisis. Please support every one in your city that you can. Let us know if you are planning one (rockrap@aol.com). These benefits could be a huge movement for health care if linked up. What ideas do you have on how to do that?

3. There is a growing movement in the U.S. to set up free medical clinics. There are clinics in New Orleans and New Jersey specifically for musicians and we are aware of attempts to start musicians clinics in Texas and California.
To find the nearest free medical clinic or to get information on how to start one, go to the Volunteers in Medicine web site.

4. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has a new contract with its signatory record labels which greatly expands the number of musicians who can get health care coverage. If you're an AFTRA member, find out about it. If you are not an AFTRA member, tell someone who is.
Contact: AFTRA at 212-532-0800 / New York or 323-634-8100 / Los Angeles
AFTRA Health & Retirement at 212-499-4800 / New York or 323-937-3631 / Los

5. Jobs With Justice () is a national coalition of unions
and community organizations which recently sponsored a Health Care Action Day in over 50 cities. JwJ has an Artist Support Program which involves artists of all kinds in community struggles.
To get involved, contact tfaulkner@cwa-union.org.

6. The movement around health care is everywhere. There are strikes to preserve benefits, battles to keep hospitals open, struggles around the funding of medical schools, etc. etc. Find ways to involve your music in these important efforts. Let us know about it so we can spread the word (rockrap@aol.com).

7. Finally, we need a vision of how to fundamentally and permanently transform our disintegrating system of health care denial into a system of universal health care delivery. Check out the Just Health Care campaign. The Just Health Care campaign explains for the first time how such a system of universal health care can be paid for (and without raising taxes on anyone who makes under $184,000 a year).
- Thank you editors of Rock & Rap Confidential

Read the specifics of my uninsured odyssey by clicking here... Eric.

Click "Make a donation" to donate to Eric's medical foundation with a credit or debit card using the secure PayPal system. I was shopping for new health insurance when this happened, & was unfortunately not covered, so any help will contribute to overcoming a monstrous medical debt & lost time at work.

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