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The Supreme Court’s Healthcare Decision & The Arts

Narric Rome

In 2007, the Americans for the Arts Action Fund put together a policy agenda for the 15 presidential candidates to consider as they built their policy platforms. Among arts policy items was a call to “encourage initiatives that provide healthcare coverage to arts organizations and individual artists.”

By early 2008, after meeting with campaign staff and putting questions before the candidates themselves in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa, the Clinton and Obama campaigns both published policy statements in support of this effort.

The Clinton campaign stated, “Hillary knows that many artists, who are self-employed or work part-time at another job to support their full-time career as artists, do not have access to employer-based coverage.” And the Obama campaign statement said, “Since many artists work independently or have non-traditional employment relations, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach.”

In 2009, with a new president sworn in, Americans for the Arts, along with 85 other national arts organizations, presented an issue brief for Arts Advocacy Day that called on the new Congress to “ensure that national healthcare insurance reform proposals include artists and other creative occupations currently excluded from employer-based insurance plans.”

At the heart of the matter was the fact that artists were (and are) disproportionately self-employed (about 60 percent work independently), and those who are not often work multiple jobs in volatile, episodic patterns. According to a 2010 study by Leveraging Investments in Creativity, “artists are twice as likely as the general population (11 percent vs. 5 percent) to purchase their own health insurance, and at much higher costs.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) signed in March 2010 provides changes in healthcare coverage, some which have already taken place, others to be phased in gradually over the four-year period. Some of the most popular provisions will not go into effect until 2014, but here’s a list of the big ones:

  • Coverage for young adults under 26 years on parents healthcare plan
  • Coverage for uninsured individuals with a pre-existing condition
  • For nonprofit organizations, a tax credit of 25 percent toward the insurance premiums you pay for your employees, increasing to 35 percent in 2014.
  • Starting in 2014, if your income is below $43,320, the government will help pay your premiums in the form of a subsidy from a state run health insurance exchange.

Further details on the benefits of the PPACA for artists is provided by Fractured Atlas, which has been working on this issue for years (and Founder and Executive Director Adam Huttler wrote about it yesterday), and in an article in ArtInfo.

Yesterday’s announcement of the decision by the Supreme Court to maintain the central component that allows for coverage for individuals to be reached was critical. If the individual mandate provision had been found unconstitutional, the outcome would have weakened, and perhaps terminated, many of the features of the PPACA that help individual artists find affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage.

There’s much that remains to be done to deliver on the promise of PPACA (such as the state-based exchanges that still need to be set up), but artists have better healthcare coverage solutions now than they did just two years ago, and that’s progress!

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