Obamacare has been a blockbuster success in the entertainment industry, and the Actors Fund has played a vital role in helping thousands of low-income actors, writers and other industry professionals obtain low-cost health insurance. Earning enough to qualify for union health benefits always has been one of the most difficult challenges facing industry workers, but since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, obtaining health benefits has become a whole lot easier.
“In the performing arts unions, you only have about 20% of the members who are eligible for union benefits at any given time,” said Jim Brown, the Actors Fund’s national director of health services. “People move in and out of insurance coverage, and when they move out of that, we’re there to help them move into another insurance plan.”
Since open enrollment for Obamacare began October 1, the Actors Fund’s Covered California helpline has contacts by more than 15,000 industry professionals seeking assistance in signing up for government-subsidized health care. The Actors Fund has been working with Covered California to provide outreach and education to arts and entertainment professionals in Los Angeles, Alameda, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego counties. Since last summer, the fund has held more than 200 workshops attended my nearly 3,000 industry workers.
In New York, nearly 700 people in the arts and entertainment industry have received one-on-one counseling from specialists at the Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center, resulting in nearly 500 Obamacare signups.
“Most of the people we’re seeing have incomes of $25,000-$50,000,” Brown said. “The cutoff for assistance is $46,000 for subsidies for an individual under Obamacare, so about 85% of the people that we’ve seen are eligible for a subsidy to pay for the premiums.”
In the coming year, the Actors Fund will be taking its Obamacare educational workshops on the road. “With a grant from the Hearst Foundation,” Brown said, “we’ll be going to at least 12 cities and partnering with arts organizations and unions to get the word out about getting enrolled.” Cities on the Fund’s Obamacare signup tour include Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Portland, Nashville, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, Cleveland and Minneapolis/St. Paul.