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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.

 

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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
AHIRC.org Web Content Developer

AHIRC.org 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 actorsfund.org/stagemanagers.

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 www.ahirc.org/health_care_guides.

10 Dancer Health Care Seminars

Dancers Health Insurance Resource Center*

DHIRC.org 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 DHIRC.org.

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.”

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.

Bebe Neuwirth’s Medal of Honor Acceptance Speech

June 30, 2011 Comments off

Bebe NeuwirthOne of our three honorees at the 2011 Actors Fund Gala on May 24 was the always amazing and incredibly dedicated Bebe Neuwirth. Vice President of The Fund, she was awarded the Medal of Honor for founding The Dancers’ Resource, created in response to the unique situation dancers face due to the physically demanding nature of their work, coupled with the significant financial challenges of earning a living in dance.

We thought we’d share her incredibly moving acceptance speech (footage of which also includes the touching introduction by her good friend Ann Reinking). And if you’d like to hear two stories of how The Dancers’ Resource has made a difference, click here to view the equally emotional testimonials given at the Gala by Marimba Gold-Watts and Jesse Factor.

For more information on The Dancers’ Resource, visit The Actors Fund’s website.

Bebe Neuwirth photo by Lyn Hughes.

Celebrating Edwin Forrest’s Legacy

May 5, 2011 Comments off

Edwin Forrest Society member James Karen in LA.

The Actors Fund marked its annual Edwin Forrest Day celebrations with two special readings of Shakespeare: The first took place on April 29 on the grounds of The Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ (we’ve pasted our highlight video below), and the second, on May 2, at Off Vine in Los Angeles.

The history of The Actors Fund is entwined with the name of this great actor, who historians consider the first great star of the American theatre.


Born in Philadelphia in 1806, Edwin Forrest quickly became the most popular actor in nineteenth-century America. Particularly admired for his interpretations of Shakespeare, he was the first American to be acclaimed internationally as well. (His star shined so brightly, in fact, that he was one of the two actors whose Shakespearian rivalry spurred New York City’s infamous Astor Place Riot in 1849.)

Actors Fund Chairman Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Los Angeles celebration.

The most important part of Edwin Forrest’s legacy, though, was what he did to help change society’s perception of actors, which at the time was not generally positive. A major supporter of both The General Theatrical Fund and the American Dramatic Fund Association (two predecessors of The Actors Fund), his true desire was to establish a retirement home for the elderly members of the profession he so loved. Four years after his death in 1872, The Edwin Forrest Home opened in Philadelphia, funded by the bulk of Forrest’s enormous estate, which he left for this purpose. It remained open until the 1980s, when its Board of Managers decided to close the home, sell the property, and contribute its sizable assets to The Actors Fund for the merger of The Edwin Forrest Home with The Fund’s Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. Today, The Lillian Booth’s main section is known as the Edwin Forrest Wing.

The name of this great actor and humanitarian also lives on in The Actors Fund’s Edwin Forrest Society, membership in which is granted to those who have included a gift to The Fund in their estate plan. For more information on the Edwin Forrest Society, please call Wallace Munro, Director of Planned Giving, at 212.221.7300 ext. 128, or e-mail wmunro@actorsfund.org.

Los Angeles Edwin Forrest Day photos by Daniel G. Lam. Edwin Forrest daguerreotype by Mathew Brady.

–Karissa Krenz

Why I Run/Walk: Pamela Dayton

April 28, 2011 Comments off

The EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women is this Saturday in New York and May 7, 2011, in Los Angeles! Our series of videos leading up to the event wraps up with Pamela Dayton, a long-time volunteer, member, and supporter of The Actors Fund — and The Fund’s Run/Walk team. Highlights of Pam’s busy acting career include roles on Broadway/Production include The Producers (she also toured with the show in the USA and Japan), A Little Night Music in LA at the Ahmanson, as well as Frank Loesser: Chance and Chemistry, the All Star Actors Fund Benefit at the Minskoff. Regional highlights include Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady, Dolly Tate with Andrea McArdle in Annie, Get Your Gun, and Boston’s Forbidden Broadway/Hollywood, in which she shared the stage with dear late friend Denice Guanci, for whom she’s participating on The Actors Fund team. Pam is also volunteering in memory of Lynn Redgrave who she met — along with her mother Rachel Kempson — while working on a Theater at Sea cruise to the Amazon.

Sign up for the 14th Annual Revlon Run/Walk as part of The Actors Fund team: click here for NYC and here for LA. This year we’re walking in memory of our beloved friend Lynn Redgrave, as well as all women in our lives that have faced cancer. Your participation directly impacts EIF funding for The Actors Fund Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, which serves women in the entertainment community who are confronting cancer and other serious heath diagnoses. Questions about The Actors Fund Team? Please contact Amy Picar at 212.221.7300 ext. 134 or apicar@actorsfund.org.

Why I Revlon Run/Walk: Karen Zabinski

April 14, 2011 Comments off

Karen ZabinskiIt’s not too late to become part of the Actors Fund Team for the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women (April 30, 2011 in New York and May 7, 2011, in Los Angeles)! Our series of videos featuring some of our team members continues with Karen Zabinski, a long-time participant and member of IATSE Local 1, who took some time out between performances of Mary Poppins at the beautiful New Amsterdam Theatre to talk to us. Karen has been in the entertainment business since 1975, when she went to work for Seattle Repertory Theatre’s prop department. She became an IATSE member in 1979 and began mixing sound for touring Broadway shows in 1981, for which spent the next 15 years on the road. Karen moved back to New York City in 1996, and has been fortunate enough to work on Broadway ever since.

She’ll be walking not only for the Broadway cast of Mary Poppins on April 30 (and to make the fundraising more fun for them, she’s raffling off the iPod Nano she won at last year’s Run/Walk), but also because “I come from a large, noisy family with 6 brothers and sisters. To lose my Mother and sister to cancer created such a hole in our hearts. I walk in their memory.”

Become part of The Actors Fund team for the 14th Annual Revlon Run/Walk (click here for NYC and here for LA) , for which we’re walking in memory of our beloved friend Lynn Redgrave, as well as all women in our lives that have faced cancer. Your participation directly impacts EIF funding for The Actors Fund Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, which serves women in the entertainment community who are confronting cancer and other serious heath diagnoses. Questions about The Actors Fund Team? Please contact Amy Picar at 212.221.7300 ext. 134 or apicar@actorsfund.org.