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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

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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!

Sincerely,

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 jfish@actorsfund.org. In Los Angeles, call Meg Thomas at 323.933.9244 ext. 434 or email mthomas@actorsfund.org.

 

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.