19 August 2009
American Artists and Health Care
If you live in the U.S. it's gotten kind of hard to ignore the ruckus about health care that's taking place, complete with gun-toting Americans on television going on about "socialism," or even worse, "Hitler" and "Nazis." I try to keep my blog posts art related, so I've studiously stayed out of the fray, but today I remembered: artists need health care!
This morning I collected a few nuggets of information about health care and artists (all types included: musicians, performing artists, visual artists, writers, etc.) and posted my findings to Twitter. Thought I'd collect the info here as well.
A Few Facts & Observations About American Artists and Health Care
1. Employment-based health care, as we have in the U.S., fails to serve artists, who are 3.5 times more likely than the general population to be self-employed or employed part time (i.e. the famous "day job").
2. An estimated 40% of artists lack health insurance. Given that artists typically earn $6,000 less annually than other "professional" workers, artists often can't afford individual premiums.
3. A Future of Music Coalition report finds that artists are considered by insurance companies to be a "risky" population. I can only speculate what that's all about, but my best guess is that it's an anti-arts bias based on a perception best stated by the new NEA chairman Rocco Landesman in a recent NY Times article: "The arts are a little bit of a target. The subtext is that it is elitist, left wing, maybe even a little gay."
Added later: Just got some good points from a twitter friend about artist risk factors like working with chemicals, repetitive stress injuries, etc. More reasons that artists need health insurance. (My earlier speculation now looks a little paranoid, but there you have it.)
The good news is, artists know how to get together and fight back. A Twitter acquaintance of mine, artist Sky Pape (see her moving series of drawings called "Keening" about the illness and death of her sister), wrote a blog post that vividly reminded me of the 1980s when AIDS was decimating the arts community. Back then, individual artists as well as groups like Act Up fought the Reagan administration to get some help and funding.
Artists, let's use our power to get the attention back on making health care available to everyone. Artists, let's use our creativity to touch hearts and make powerful statements that can drown out the memes of fear and prejudice that are dominating the debate. Artists, let's get ourselves some good old all-American health insurance!
And please, if you're an artist, leave me a comment about where your coverage, if any, comes from.