Archive for the ‘health care’ Category

Run/Walk Wednesday: Team Captain Caroline Parrone!

March 27, 2013 Comments off

Caroline's mother Donna, her grandmother Joyce & Caroline.

Caroline’s mother Donna, her grandmother Joyce & Caroline.

Every Wednesday leading up to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Revlon Run/Walk (May 4 in New YorkMay 11 in Los Angeles), we’re sharing memories and celebrating our members! Today we chat with this year’s team captain, Special Events Associate (and Young Professionals guru) Caroline Parrone.

Actors Fund: Are you walking in “honor” or “memory” of someone special in this year’s EIF Revlon Run/Walk?
Caroline Parrone: I am walking in honor of all the women in my life who have been affected by cancer, including my great-grandmother Nathalie Rosa, my grandmother Carita and my husband’s grandmother Mimi.

It is so scary to come from a family line of women who have been affected by cancer (on both my mother’s and father’s sides), and I walk in hopes that my mother, cousins, maybe future daughters and I will live to see a cure.

AF: Why do you walk with The Actors Fund Team?
CP: Not only do I fully believe in and support the work of the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, but I also enjoy this event so much that I asked to be Team Captain while our regular TC Amy Picar spends time with her new baby!   

AF: Do you fundraise for RRW, or have anything special planned this year?
CP: I love fundraising for this event! Last year I knit a little something for each person that donated to my page. This year I am creating a small piece of paper art for each person who donates. Just a little thank you to my supporters.

AF: Run or Walk, and why?
CP: I tend to walk this 5k, mostly so I can chat and snap photos.

AF: We’re taking a vote… Suggest a Theme Song for this years’ team?
CP: “Think,” Aretha Franklin

The EIF Revlon Run/Walk is an annual event that raises money and awareness for the fight against women’s cancers, and funds raised by The Actors Fund team supports The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative (PNWHI), created to address the myriad of concerns women face when dealing with a serious medical condition. Help us fight the fight by joining one of our teams (clickhere for NYChere for LA), or making a pledge or donation on behalf of someone who’s walking with us. Your pledge will help fund important research into the cause and cure of women’s cancers, prevention, education and support service programs for those women battling cancer and their families.


The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic Thanks *You*!

September 20, 2012 Comments off

The Actors Fund‘s Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic has been receiving some incredibly moving thank-yous from across the industry in response to the campaign on The Actors Fund’s website.

The entire Clinic staff was so moved by your incredible response, they wanted to take a moment to thank all of YOU. Please enjoy this video message from Dr. James Spears, the Clinic’s Medical Director.

We received so many wonderful notes, we thought we’d share a few of the staff’s favorite thank-yous:

Dear Dr. Spears and Staff,

Thank you for your kindness, compassion, and being one of our angels on earth. You all make the world a better place. Thank you for giving of yourselves and your knowledge to help less fortunate people.  We shall forward treasure, respect, and appreciate all that you have done for so many.



Dear Dr. Spears,

I have yet to meet you in person, but feel I know you through the stories of your generosity and compassion told by all who are the benefactors of your care.  My daughter, Dahlia (SAG member) is without medical insurance at the moment and will soon be walking through your doors at the Hirschfeld Clinic to partake of your resources.  She and I thank you in advance for the quality care she can anticipate receiving from you and your staff.  That feeling of confidence that good care is available even before one arrives is an abundant and healing gift in itself.  Thanks to you and your staff for all you do everyday.



I had sudden-onset asthma last January and was terrified. Dr. Spears saw me and diagnosed me and reassured me and cured me!!! Bless him and bless the Actors’ Fund.

– Beverly

Through The Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC), the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic in Manhattan, and The Performing Artists’ Medical Clinic at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, The Actors Fund works to ensure everyone in entertainment has the opportunity to stay healthy. Our Health Services programs offer both Internet-based and personal health insurance guidance, solutions-based health care counseling, experience-based health referrals and, through our own free clinic, direct medical care for people who are uninsured.

Dr. Spears with one of the many limited edition Hirschfeld prints that grace the walls of the Clinic.

Located in New York City at The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residences, the Hirschfeld Clinic offers urgent care, primary and specialty care with low cost referrals to a wide range of specialty clinics and practitioners. Dr. James Spears, the Clinic’s Medical Director, oversees a team of general practitioners and specialists who volunteer their time to provide free medical care to the entertainment community.

For more information on how The Actors Fund can help keep you healthy, or to support our numerous healthcare programs, visit our website

Join Us in Thanking the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic Team!

September 6, 2012 Comments off

Located in New York City at The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residences (formerly The Aurora), The Actors Fund’s Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic provides free health care to uninsured and underinsured documented entertainment industry professionals between the ages of 18 to 64. Its clients, who come from all corners of the entertainment industry, are grateful to receive the amazing care given to them by Medical Director Dr. James Spears, the rest of the team at the Clinic, and the incredible roster of Broadway Docs, who volunteer their time to offer free services when needed.

The Clinic has positively impacted the lives of so many people, and we are moved when we hear from people like Kathleen Spock, who’s visit with Dr. Spears changed her life and has helped her stay healthy. Kathleen’s taken the time to share her story with us, to tell us why she believes the Clinic is such an incredibly important resource, and to encourage all of you to send the fabulous team at the Hirschfeld Clinic a thank-you note.

I call Dr. Spears “my angel in heaven.”  He was there when I needed him most – and I can tell you with certainty, not a finer man walks this earth.

Now, I’d like to be there for Dr. Spears and his staff and thank them for the amazing work they do every day.  And, I hope you will help.

A few weeks before I met Dr. Spears, I had so much trouble breathing I found myself in the ER overnight. I didn’t know what was wrong and I was terrified.  Trust me – when you can’t breathe, your whole world stops.

But, the huge bill I ended up with was even scarier, not to mention a misdiagnosis of a “sore throat!”  Not long after that, I had so much trouble breathing, I couldn’t even finish my shift at the theater.  Finally, a stagehand took me to The Actors Fund’s Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic during the show’s intermission.

Dr. Spears, the Clinic’s Medical Director, diagnosed me with severe asthma right away.  Who knew?  Well, Dr. Spears did!  And to this day, the Clinic still helps provide medication critical to controlling my asthma.

Every year, The Actors Fund provides free care to more than 1,300 un- or under-insured people  in the performing arts through the Clinic (and nearly 3,000 free visits for our community).

So, I humbly ask that you take a moment to sign a “thank you” note to Dr. Spears and his dedicated staff.  They do so much for our community—we owe it to them to make sure they know how much they are appreciated!

Your appreciation of the hard-working team at the Clinic is a great way to keep the arts vibrant.  By recognizing Dr. Spears’ efforts, all of us who are uninsured – actors, technicians, dancers, singers, set designers, ushers and all the rest – stay healthy, strong and able to work!

Thank you again for being part of The Actors Fund family.  Your loyal support literally keeps the people in the performing arts and entertainment healthy!


Kathleen Spock

Join The Actors Fund to help keep our community healthy! You’ll get access to the best seats in the house, receive our Marquee newsletter (which includes reports on how your donations help our community), plus the latest on our exciting events. In New York, call Judy Fish at 212.221.7300 ext. 127 or email In Los Angeles, call Meg Thomas at 323.933.9244 ext. 434 or email


Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act: Good News for All Artists

June 28, 2012 Comments off

Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is good news for all artists.

Since 1998, the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center at The Actors Fund has worked to find affordable health insurance and health care for thousands of visual and performing artists. Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act will help more artists secure health insurance. We look forward to playing a key role in making sure that every artist is insured.

Lack of insurance is an ongoing crisis among artists, many of whom are self-employed or work in small businesses that cannot afford to offer it as a benefit.  Almost one out of three workers in our community is uninsured.

The Affordable Care Act includes numerous provisions that will make comprehensive insurance accessible to almost everyone in our community. Subsidies for the purchase of private insurance, health plan Exchanges that give small businesses and individuals the buying power of group purchasers (such as large companies and unions), the expansion of Medicaid eligibility, and the end of exclusion from coverage based on pre-existing conditions are just a few of the benefits of this law.

The mandate to purchase health insurance is an essential provision of the law, as well. It should make the cost more affordable for everyone by increasing the number of healthy individuals who purchase insurance, and force those who shift the cost of their care onto others to take financial responsibility for it.

As it has for 130 years, The Actors Fund continues to work diligently for the well-being of artists and entertainers.  For us and the community we serve, this is not a political issue, but an issue of long-overdue access to quality, affordable health care for the people we serve.

-Joseph P. Benincasa, President & CEO, The Actors Fund

The Actors Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) has been connecting artists, craftspeople and entertainment industry workers around the country to health insurance and affordable health care since 1998. Getting health insurance or finding quality medical care is a constant concern for anyone who is uninsured or who isn’t covered by an employer, union or government health plan. AHIRC identifies alternative routes to coverage and local resources for care for performers, visual artists, stagehands, filmmakers, musicians, artisans, and other self-employed and episodic workers.

In addition, AHIRC has produced a concise and readable guide to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as the health care reform law. This guide clearly explains the most significant programs and reforms, with special emphasis on those that directly impact artists and entertainers. Every Artist Insured: Understanding Health Care Reform is written in a practical Q & A format and includes a timeline and links to pertinent websites.  

For more information, visit For more information on The Actors Fund’s free programs and services for everyone in entertainment, visit

Meet Our Healthcare Services Team!

May 31, 2012 Comments off

Our knowledgeable and dedicated staff at The Actors Fund‘s Artist Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) continues to accomplish a stunning amount of work, research, and advocacy for the countless individuals hoping to demystify the mysteries of health insurance–especially when it comes to people working in the performing arts and entertainment. The latest issue of our twice-yearly newsletter Marquee highlights the work they’ve done (and shares the story of a few of the clients they helped) so we thought we’d share the brief introductions to each of our amazing staff members–as well as just a few of their accomplishments–on the blog. Feel free to check out the pdf of the entire issue here, and if you’d like to receive Marquee in the mail, become a member!

Elizabeth Tripp

350,000 Web Visitors

Elizabeth Tripp Web Content Developer has about 350,000 visitors a year. I make sure our 5,000 links are current and accurate and the information is as streamlined and clear as possible. It’s challenging, but also rewarding knowing that even one link with the right information will help someone connect to affordable health care.”

Risa Neuwirth

2,000 Clients

Risa Neuwirth
L.M.S.W. Health Insurance Counselor

“We counsel more than 2,000 clients a year, in New York, LA and across the country. Many of our clients say they feel overwhelmed and confused about health insurance costs and coverage. It’s really satisfying to be able to reach out to them, listen to their needs, and help them navigate through the morass of information and choices.”

118 Health Care Seminars

AHIRC Goes on Tour

AHIRC’s team of health insurance experts, through partnerships with local arts organizations, continues to reach out nationally to performing arts and entertainment professionals, as well as visual artists, with seminars and workshops that help to explain how health care reform offers new and affordable options for coverage. In 2011, we went on tour, conducting 118 seminars (85 in LA and NYC, and 33 nationwide.)

The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic team: Administrative Coordinator Judine Alexandre, Health Services Manager Janet Pearl
and Medical Director Dr. Jim Spears, M.D.

29 Stage Manager City Directories

Stage Managers’ National Health Directory

This online resource provides touring companies with a list of doctors and health professionals in 29 cities, all recommended by theaters, stage managers, actors and others in the entertainment industry. Available at

18 Health Care Guides

Our 18 brief city guides on getting affordable health care and health insurance outline public and private health insurance options in a practical Q & A format, and include contact information for selected clinics and pharmacies. All of them are available at

10 Dancer Health Care Seminars

Dancers Health Insurance Resource Center* is our website devoted specifically to providing dancers with all the information they need to find the best and most affordable health insurance available to them. In 2011, we offered seminars in 10 major US dance centers. Visit

Dan Kitowski

2 Virtual Health Care Seminars

Dan Kitowski
M.S.W., Director of Health Services, Western Region

“We’re constantly looking for ways to reach more people and get them insured. In addition to in-person visits to cities across the west coast, last year we ran two virtual health insurance seminars—one for the State of Pennsylvania and another in collaboration with Artist Trust in Seattle. We reached 77 people with health care reform and health insurance information, all via online connection. We had a great response, and we’re still following-up with attendees via phone and email counseling.”

Renata Marinaro

2 Health Care Policy Testimonies

Renata Marinaro
L.M.S.W., Director of Health Services, Eastern Region

“Last year I testified at The Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit in Washington, DC, and this January the New York City Council heard our testimony on increasing artists’ access to health insurance. We also gave a health care seminar again this year at one of the largest music and film festivals in the country, South by Southwest in Austin, TX. So our national presence in really growing.” Read Renata’s NYC Council testimony here.

Jim Brown

100% Coverage by 2014!

Jim Brown
National Director of Health Services

“We want visual and performing artists  and entertainment professionals to  have the same access to quality, affordable health care as teachers,  business people and politicians. Our  goal is to have 100% of them with comprehensive  health insurance by 2014.”

The Actors Fund On Air!

April 12, 2012 Comments off

Last Thursday, Actors Fund Western Region Director Keith McNutt and Director of Social Services Tina Hookom were guests on Samm Brown’s For The Record, KPFK 90.7 FM’s weekly radio show that delves into various behind-the-scenes entertainment industry issues. Keith and Tina’s one-hour live chat with Samm included a discussion of the Actors Fund’s fascinating history, what makes our work possible, a bit on who we help and how we help them, the realities of working in the entertainment industry, and an overview of The Fund’s programs and services. They took some interesting listener calls throughout the broadcast, too.

If you’d like to check out the archived show, go to, scroll to the April 5th program, and click the “play” link to download and listen in your music player.

AHIRC’s Renata Marinaro Speaks To New York’s City Council

February 2, 2012 Comments off

Renata Marinaro

Renata Marinaro

On January 23, The Actors Fund‘s Renata Marinaro, Director of Health Services/Eastern Region for The Artists’ Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC), testified to the New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs on increasing health insurance access for artists in the city. The Committee is considering various ways to increase access to health care and insurance, including expanding bartering programs such as Artists Access and targeting information and resources at the creative community. Council members present included James Van Bramer and Dominic Recchia, who were joined by Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs Kate Levin. The Commissioner and the Chair of the Committee recognized The Actors Fund’s central role in educating artists on health care options and providing free care through the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.

Renata’s testimony was so enlightening and included so many important points, we thought we’d make the transcript available to everyone:

My name is Renata Marinaro. I’m the Director of Health Services, Eastern Region, for The Actors Fund.

The Fund’s Hirschfeld Clinic offers free health care for the uninsured in performing arts and entertainment. Photo by Karissa Krenz.

THE ACTORS FUND is a national human services organization that helps all professionals in performing arts and entertainment. THE FUND IS A SAFETY NET, PROVIDING PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN NEED, CRISIS OR TRANSITION. Founded in 1882, The Fund serves those in film, theater, television, music, opera, and dance, and assists both performers and those behind the scenes with a broad spectrum of programs designed to address the needs of the community, including comprehensive social services, health services, supportive and affordable housing, employment and training services, and skilled nursing and assisted living care. The Fund also makes emergency grants for essential needs.

In 1998, The Actors Fund received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to create a resource center for uninsured people in the visual and performing arts.  This was in response to the high number of uninsured and underinsured artists — estimated in 2009 by Leveraging Investments in Creativity to be 36%, higher than the general population estimate of 25%. The Fund created an online state-by-state database, accessible for free at, that links to up-to-date information about getting and keeping health insurance and finding quality, affordable health care for those who cannot afford health insurance or do not have access to it because of a pre-existing condition.  The website received about 348,500 individual visits in 2011.

In addition, counselors at the resource center advise entertainment industry professionals in person and by phone regarding their options for getting health insurance. Clients are educated on a variety of options, including private insurance — unaffordable to most artists since premiums for basic HMOs currently range between $920 (the cheapest) to $2765 per month —  to association plans for the self-employed, like The Freelancers Union or TEIGIT, where the cost is still high but less than half of the private plans, to income-based government-subsidized programs, like Medicaid, Family Health Plus, and Healthy NY.

Hirschfeld Clinic

The waiting room at The Fund’s Hirschfeld Clinic in midtown Manhattan. Photo by Karissa Krenz.

We counsel over 3000 artists each year, many of whom cannot afford any of these options, and, among the performers, do not get enough union work to qualify for benefits with SAG, AFTRA, Equity or the Musician’s Union Local 802. While some will not need medical care during the year, others will be among those who avoid or delay needed care, or who get care and are charged exorbitant non-negotiated rates, then face medical bills of thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars that, despite the financial assistance we can offer, cause them to go into ruinous debt.

New York City is fortunate to have excellent community clinics such as the Ryan Centers and Callen-Lorde that charge on a sliding scale and are a medical home for many artists.  The Actors Fund operates the only full-time free clinic in the city, the Al Hirschfeld on 57th St and Tenth Avenue.  Last year the clinic saw almost 1400 uninsured patients for almost 3,000 visits.  In addition, the city’s Health and Hospital’s Corporation’s HHC Options program provides hospital care to the uninsured based on their income.  But these are not a substitute for health insurance.

Since The Actors Fund last testified in 2009 the health insurance landscape has changed, losing some features and gaining others. The arts service organization Fractured Atlas no longer offers health insurance. The Freelancers Union coverage has gotten more expensive with higher deductibles and co-pays, and Healthy NY, a program heavily utilized by our community, now offers only high-deductible plans, making it a less attractive option for many who need regular care. The ARRA subsidy allowed many of our clients to continue their coverage at affordable rates; however, it expired in 2011.  Fortunately, the New York State Entertainment Industry COBRA subsidy, which began in January 2005, has survived and continues to help industry professionals bridge periods of low employment.

These losses, however, have been compensated for by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It has brought welcome and necessary changes to the system: younger artists can now be insured under their parents’ coverage up to age 26, a benefit that has been heavily utilized. The NY Bridge Plan has been a lifeline to many formerly uninsured artists who, without it, would be forced to pay more than double the cost of the Bridge Plan premium for insurance that would not cover their pre-existing conditions for at least a year. And for the senior performers, the 50% discount on brand name drugs in the doughnut hole has made a big difference.

Dr. Jim Spears speaks with Sarah Ittner, a New York-based actor, at the Actors Fund's Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America.

And what is coming in 2014 will have an even greater impact on our community.  The ability to purchase a comprehensive health insurance plan that meets an individual’s or a family’s health care needs on a competitive Exchange, the system of subsidies to make it affordable to low and middle income people, and the mandate to purchase insurance has the potential of finally achieving our mission of EVERY ARTIST INSURED.

New York has more health insurance resources for performing artists than most other states, yet the number of uninsured in the performing arts remains high. Episodic work and low and/or infrequent pay make it difficult for performing artists to maintain health insurance and find affordable health care.  To repeat: the most positive change to the health care landscape for the entertainment and arts community has come from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many of whose provisions are directed at the individual and small group market, where the majority of artists find themselves.

The Actors Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) has been connecting artists, craftspeople and entertainment industry workers around the country to health insurance and affordable health care since 1998. For more information, visit or