When I first arrived in New York City in the year of 1979, I did not have health insurance. Being primarily a jazz musician, I could barley make enough money to pay my 240.00 dollar per month railroad apartment in Hells Kitchen. Fortunately, it only took me several years (stressful years) to become eligible for the musicians local 802 health plan, qualifying either for plan A or plan B. Unfortunately for many of my peers, they could not afford health insurance and sadly joined the ranks of approximately 45 million Americans that are unable to afford health insurance.
Help is here! The best-kept secret is that, an amazing program is happening at Brooklyn’s Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center where artist’s can exchange or trade their talents for health care needs. The program is called “Artist Access”, founded by Woodhull’s hospital medical director Edward Fishkin. The program offers affordable healthcare for all New York City based artists and art workers, and offers the unique option for exchanging creative services for medical care.
Mr. Fishkin states that “this program is an alternative for people who work with out health insurance and who do not have resources to pay for one”, but they cannot benefit from public assistance because of their migratory status or by having additional revenue despite the maximum consideration in programs like Medicaid.
Artist Access offers several services designed specifically to meet the needs of artists. Among them:
A dedicated phone number,
1-877-244-5600, staffed by counselors familiar with the “Artist Access” program for you to call to receive more information about the program and/or to set up your first appointment with your primary physician.
Your financial eligibility will be determined by financial counselors aware of the nature of artist’s employment cycles, based on your income. Eligibility can be determined either in advance of your first physician visit or just prior to your first appointment. Please note: no artist will be turned away from medical care. Based on your income, you will be eligible for either government programs such as Medicaid, or a fee-for-service arrangement based entirely on your ability to pay.
On your first visit, you will be met in the lobby of Woodhull Medical Center and escorted to your first physician appointment. A translator can also be available if needed.
Woodhull Medical Center recognizes that artists possess special talents that can lift spirits, bring hope, and provide a momentary break from one’s concerns. Performances enjoyed by individuals or groups of hospitalized patients are desirable. For each hour of performance, 40 credits worth of health care services will be added to your personalized health care account. Credits may be exchanged for an equivalent value of health care services in dollars. When you need health care at Woodhull, the fee (your fee scale will be determined at your first visit with a financial counselor) will be charged to your health care account. For example, when you perform for one hour, your health care account will contain 40 credits. If your doctor visit costs 20.00(as determined by your fee scale), 20 credits will be deducted from your health care account. The result? A free doctor visit plus enough credits left over for another free doctor visit or prescriptions! One can perform as many hours as one wishes to build up his/her bank of credits, tailored to his/her particular health needs. Interested? The financial counselor will help set you up for an interview with Woodhull staff to discuss your performance plan.
The Artist Access program is designed as a pilot project at Woodhull Medical Center only. Based on an evaluation of the pilot program, it is expected that Artist Access, will be implemented at other city hospitals* after the pilot. But all of the city’s public hospitals offer the sliding scale program called HHC Options, along with financial counseling to help patients determine what insurance coverage may be available to them. Uninsured patients who are ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or one of the New York State insurance programs (such as Family Health Plus) can be enrolled in HHC Options, which establishes a fee scale based on income. It ranges from $15-$60 per visit. Residents of the five New York City boroughs who earn an annual income up to 400% of the federal poverty level—about $36,000 to $37,000 for an individual—are eligible. There is no monthly charge for enrollment in the plan. The fee for a doctor’s visit includes most x-rays and lab tests. There’s a $10 processing fee for each prescription, up to $40; after that, the remaining prescriptions are free. Surgery, invasive procedures, MRIs, and colonoscopies are also fee-scaled. HHC Options can also be employed for those who have limited insurance coverage and have difficulty meeting their copays or deductibles. Being with out health insurance can be very stressful, especially when one is in the throes of pursuing a career in music. I hope that many musicians will avail themselves to this wonderful program called artist access.