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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.

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In honor of World AIDS Day 2012

December 1, 2012 Comments off

In honor of World AIDS Day 2012, The Actors Fund salutes people around the world living with HIV/AIDS. We cherish and celebrate those that we have lost to the epidemic.

We also pay tribute to the work of our HIV/AIDS Initiative teams in Los Angeles and New York for all they do every day to serve those living with HIV/AIDS in the entertainment community from coast to coast.

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In our Los Angeles Office, l-r: Western Region Director Keith McNutt, M.P.P., L.C.S.W.; HIV/AIDS Initiative Supervisor Jan-Kees Van Der Gaag, L.C.S.W.; Ze’ev Korn, L.C.S.W.; Joey Shanley, M.S.W.; and Intern Julie Doran.

In our New York Office, l-r: Thomas Lorio, L.M.S.W.; Marjorie Roop, L.C.S.W.; and Supervisor of The Fund's HIV/AIDS Initiative Kenton Curtis L.C.S.W..

In our New York Office, l-r: Thomas Lorio, L.M.S.W.; Marjorie Roop, L.C.S.W.; and Supervisor of The Fund’s HIV/AIDS Initiative Kenton Curtis L.C.S.W. Not pictured: Elizabeth Avedon, L.C.S.W. and A. Barrett Gray, L.C.S.W..

We also have a very special place in our hearts for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, whose enthusiasm for and commitment to our work helps us help everyone in entertainment.

The Actors Fund HIV/AIDS Initiative works with men and women in the entertainment industry to create confidential, holistic plans and support systems that will meet each person’s emotional, medical and financial needs over the long term. Please contact us if you or someone you know is in need of assistance. Visit www.actorsfund.org.

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.

–Joan

and

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.

–Yolanda

and

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

There’s Nothing Like “Nothing Like A Dame”

March 14, 2012 Comments off

As we prepare for 2011’s Nothing Like A Dame — the 17th annual installment of the always-unforgettable benefit for The Actors Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative (PNWHI) — we keep finding incredible photos from DAMES past…which makes us even more excited for March 26th! Check out a few of our latest finds, then head on over to our site for more information and to purchase tickets!

A shot from DAME 1997, featuring Phyllis Newman with (l-r) Adolph Green, Mary Rodgers, Paul Libin and Florence Rowe Libin. Photo by Jerry Speier.

The always amazing Julie Andrews sings a number from Victor/Victoria in 1997. Photo by Jerry Speier.

Margo Jefferson and S. Epatha Merkerson in 1997. Photo by Jerry Speier.

Idina Menzel and Marisa Tomei celebrate DAMES 1997. Photo by Jerry Speier.

Audra McDonald in 2009. Photo by Anita Shevett.

Andrea McCardle performs for DAMES 2009. Photo by Anita Shevett.

Bebe Neuwirth in 2009. Photo by Anita Shevett.

Polly Bergen brings down the house in 2010 -- she'll be returning to do the same thing this year! Photo by Jay Brady Photography.

The 17th annual Nothing Like A Dame will take place March 26, 2011, at the Gerald Lynch Theatre. Visit our website to purchase tickets!

Free Tax Preparation: Our LA Office Launches VITA!

February 9, 2012 Comments off

The Actors Fund’s Los Angeles office has just kicked off the pilot season of its Entertainment Industry VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) program, which provides free income tax preparation to low and moderate income individuals and families. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to file their taxes, claiming all legitimate deductions and appropriate credits–including the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is often overlooked–and receive their tax refund, if applicable.

VITA is hosted by The Actors Fund and supported in part by contributions from Actors’ Equity, AFTRA, SAG, the SAG Foundation and IATSE to assist their members; therefore, VITA is only open to industry professionals that hold union cards. The program will have only four days of operation in 2012, during which IRS Certified volunteers will help prepare returns, so the number of available appointments is very limited, and we recommend applying for a spot as soon as possible.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the VITA program, visit www.actorsfund.org/VITA, where you can access additional information, determine if you are eligible for the program and request an appointment. Candidates will receive a VITA worksheet packet which must be completed in order to see a tax preparer, and in-person appointments are mandatory. Walk-ins will be seen, but only if possible, and on a first-come first-served basis on each day of operation.

And dont’ forget, if you’re not in LA or can’t make a VITA appointment, The Actors Fund has numerous other Financial Wellness programs at your disposal, including three episodes of The Actors Fund Podcast Series!

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 www.ahirc.org, 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 www.actorsfund.org or www.ahirc.org.

The Newest Podcast Has Arrived: Financial Wellness Part 3!

January 26, 2012 Comments off

Podcast Series LogoThe final episode of the first Actors Fund Podcast Series is now up and available for viewing. Financial Wellness Part 3: Credit Health, featuring Nancy Johnston, shows you how to analyze your personal credit and debt profile, including how to understand your credit report and your credit score.

The episode also takes you through The Actors Fund Credit Accounts Organizer, a self-assessment tool which will give you a simplified snapshot of your pertinent credit and debt information. Credit is important in today’s world, and responsible use of credit offers many valuable options that can improve your financial life. For many people in the entertainment industry, credit is the tool that you use to ensure lifestyle continuity – in other words, paying your bills and putting food on the table when you’re in between jobs. When you use your available credit it becomes debt, which can limit your options and create undue financial pressure. This segment will not only help you to determine if you have a debt problem, but also to establish a stable method of managing your overall credit health.

You can view all seven episodes in the Podcast Series on The Actors Fund website.

The Actors Fund would like to extend special thanks to those individuals who graciously donated their time and resources to this series. Chaim Cantor, President of the New York Chapter of the IATSE Local 600 Cinematographers Union, who recruited the fabulous crew: Peter Barrow, Desirée Oritz, Glynis Burke, Annette Lian-Williams, Russell Costanzo, Mitch Jacobsen, and Alyssa Trumper. The Fund also thanks scriptwriter and WGA member Halayne Eherneberg, as well our fabulous SAG actors: Diedre Goodwin, Michael Iannucci, Nancy Johnston, and Michael McCoy.