Questions about the new health exchanges? The Actors Fund is set to help!
We recently asked our own Jim Brown, The Actors Fund‘s National Director of Health Services, to explain how the health exchange portion of the new Affordable Care Act would work, and tell us what The Fund was doing to ensure everyone in entertainment can take best possible advantage of the new law. He wrote this helpful article for us, which we’ve shared with some of the entertainment unions–and now with you! If you have questions, or would like to know more about how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect you, we’re here to help!
Since the Supreme Court decided to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as the ACA, or “Obamacare”), it seems a good idea to take a closer look at one of its most important provisions: the health insurance Exchanges, which come online in 2014. These should prove useful for members of the entertainment community who find themselves without union or employer coverage.
But how do you actually sign up with one of the health insurance exchanges? The insurance companies who offer plans on these new exchanges will set up programs called Navigators to help the public to do just that. The types of organizations eligible to become Navigators include unions and community nonprofits like The Actors Fund.
Navigators will be trained in insurance options, eligibility requirements, benefit specifications and enrollment. They will also inform enrollees of public programs for which they may be eligible. In addition, the final blueprint for the Exchanges includes a group called “in-person assistors” who will be available to guide consumers in a one-on-one setting.
Access to the insurers on the Exchange will also be available through state-specific websites that will allow on-line comparison of plans, explanations of benefits and applications. It should be noted that similar websites currently exist for the performing arts and entertainment community.
Since 1998, The Actors Fund has operated the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center website (www.ahirc.org) assisting actors, musicians and other artists and entertainment professionals in finding affordable health insurance and, if they are unable to get it, income-based healthcare at community clinics. The Actors Fund’s social workers and health insurance professionals also counsel our community about their health insurance options, produce educational materials, offer union seminars, and maintain a comprehensive Internet database of health insurance and health care resources.
To provide direct care to the uninsured, The Fund operates the only full-time free clinic for the uninsured in New York City, the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, at which every patient is tested for eligibility for health insurance programs. In addition, The Fund collaborates with MusiCares and the Venice Family Clinic to offer low-cost medical services twice monthly to low-income musicians, dancers, actors and others at the Performing Artists’ Medical Clinic in Los Angeles.
This experience makes The Actors Fund uniquely qualified to become a Navigator, particularly for entertainment union members who have not earned eligibility for health benefits. To that end, The Fund has contacted the New York Department of Health and the California Health Benefits Exchange and requested designation as a Navigator for the performing and visual arts community. It is expected that the selection process will begin by the end of 2012.
Together with the entertainment industry unions, The Fund has established a Task Force on the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, with representatives from all the entertainment industry unions. It is focusing on two issues: union support for The Fund to become a Navigator organization for the creative community, and the need for an ongoing dialog among industry unions on the effects of the ACA on union benefit plans. The Fund’s goal is to inform the creative community about how to obtain health insurance coverage through the new exchange system. As of early October, the Task Force has met twice and will continue to meet regularly until full implementation of ACA on January 1, 2014, and then on an as-needed basis as the exchange system is rolled out.
Our goal is to have everyone in our creative community insured with a comprehensive affordable quality health plan within the next 15 months. For more information, visit www.ahirc.org or www.actorsfund.org.