Just spent most of the last week on the couch, recovering from a really freaky infection of the sinuses and inner ear. Plenty gross. And on top of that, it caused my tongue to swell up, so I couldn't even speak! Probably the worst thing that can happen when you're a professional trainer and speaker, right? Luckily, I caught it in time to get loads of medication. But it reminded me that I had been meaning to put together some resources for musicians looking for affordable health insurance.
Like a lot of us, pre-existing health conditions made it really hard for Lori and I to get coverage. When Lori got sick, Blue Cross decided to call her illness "pre-existing," only because it hadn't been diagnosed up until the point at which she almost died. So they left us hanging for six figures worth of hospital bills. Trying to find health coverage on your own without the backing of a group plan, an employer, or a trade association can finish the job that your illness started in the first place. Without support from NARAS, I wouldn't have been able to get us on to another plan to get us through until I picked up my new day job.
NARAS offers access to two Academy-supported health care brokerages:
MusicProInsurance is a great clearinghouse of rates and information. The general public can use their site, but NARAS members can use their group status to qualify for a broader range of plans.
Association Health Programs offer even more comprehensive plans for musicians who need ongoing care.
NARAS membership costs $100 for a year. You will most likely save that much on the cost of a health plan from most of their recommended providers. You can join as a non-Voting member just by submitting a business card or company letterhead from a record company, agency, or recording studio where you work. (This could be your own company, for example.) If you'd like to actually vote on the Grammys, there's a new "digital qualifying" option that's much less restrictive than membership has ever been. (We'll leave commentary out for now, but for the sake of getting cheap health care, it's an Association that really has taken a stand for its members on this issue over the past few years.)
In a few strong music communities, local organizations help musicians get quality health care:
Healthcare for Musicians helps residents of Louisiana find low-cost clinics.
Health Alliance for Austin Musicians connects Texan artists with dental and medical services.
Ithaca Health Alliance, based in my own college town, offers discount services to New York residents.
And for folks in other parts of the U.S., the Future of Music Coalition manages a comprehensive guide of resources, articles, and links about health insurance for musicians.
As I've written before, it can often seem crazy to budget money every month for something you hope you'll never have to use. If it means you never have to go through the pain of suffering through an untreated injury, it's worth every penny.