Health Care for Artists

About a month ago I made brief mention in an entry of NYFA article that discusses how a hospital in Brooklyn is offering low cost health services to artists in NYC.

I actually made Laura Colby’s (agent mention in article) acquaintance a year ago and emailed her with praise for her efforts. She told me there are similar efforts being made all over the country and I should keep my eye open for them.

I forgot that suggestion until today when I came across a section on the Folk Alliance website listing all sorts of health resources for artists.

Along with a listing of insurance companies, the website has links to pages dealing with industry hazards like tinnitus, performance anxiety and hand care of musicians. One of the most amusingly titled links is The Accordian: A Back Breaker. The webpage includes a 7 part series of articles on the best way to enjoy playing and how to choose the instrument that is right for you.

Much to my surprise, there was also a link to a Performing Arts Medicine program at Ithaca College. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise. There are sports medicine programs, why not performing arts medicine? I mean, except for the fact that athletic programs in schools and professional sports organizations have more money to toss around than their arts counterparts.

But wouldn’t you know it, a Google search on the subject turned up a number of such programs, including a Performing Arts Medicine Association.

Taking up Laura’s challenge, I also did a Google Search for non-union entities that offer help with artist health care.

Washington State, Rhode Island and Texas have a mixture of resources and advocacy efforts for artist coverage going on right now.

The Artists Foundation in Boston directs people to some insurance sources. They also make people aware of the hazardous materials they may be coming in contact with depending on the type of art they are pursuing.

Out in LA, the Center for Cultural Innovation offers medical and dental coverage for $19.95 a year. I saw some implication that it is an introductory rate. Still, pretty dang good unless it just covers bandaids and dental floss.

The Actor’s Fund provides healthcare and support for all entertainment industry professionals. (I actually didn’t know they were a separate entity from Actors’ Equity until today.) They even have their own nursing home.

Fractured Atlas seems to offer the largest listing of resources as it contains a database of health insurance providers for their members listed by state.

It is no surprise health coverage is a big issue for artists–heck it is a big issue for most people. Hopefully as time progresses, similar programs will emerge as more and more people realize this is an issue that needs attention.

Programs like the one in Brooklyn is actually win-win. In exchange for the low rates, some artists promise to perform in the various wards. For some people, there may not be any more potent an encounter with the arts than when they are feeling their most weak and vulnerable.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


4 thoughts on “Health Care for Artists”

  1. If you look close enough there is almost always going to be an association that you can join that offers health benefits. In most cases it might not be cheaper. The major benefit is that you cannot get declined by association group plan.

  2. Another online source, can also point researchers in the direction of special self-employment insurance plans such as Blue Cross’s Anthem and Kaiser Permanente that may have more affordable health insurance options. In any of the above cases, for me—a single, middle-aged woman, the average insurance quote for adequate health insurance, not including dental or vision, was at least $300/month, usually closer to $400.


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