Posts Tagged ‘Health Insurance’

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.”


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

Supporting The People Who Make Us Laugh

April 13, 2011 Comments off

American Comedy Fund LogoIn tandem with The Comedy Awards, which aired this weekend on MTV Networks, a consortium of organizations announced the launch of  The American Comedy Fund. To be administered by the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), this new financial resource will help The Actors Fund and the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) provide social services and financial assistance to comedians who qualify. The American Comedy Fund is the first-ever charitable fund dedicated exclusively to supporting the comedy community in times of need, crisis or transition, and will help The Actors Fund provide much-needed financial assistance, health services and other resources for comedians across the country — many of which have no union support.

To further illustrate the need for The American Comedy Fund, the leaders of the three organizations overseeing it, Lisa Paulsen of EIF, Ken Sherer of MPTA, and Joseph Benincasa of The Actors Fund, penned the following Op-Ed, which was published by The Comic’s Comic (and subsequently picked up by The Huffington Post).

“Knights of Comedy: An American Dream or Impossible Dream”

From Bob Hope in the sixties to Steve Byrne and Ryan Dalton performing comedy for American service members over the Christmas holiday in a tent at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, comedians have had a long history of donning Don Quixote’s “helmet of membrino” as their battle gear to perform on the front lines and entertain our troops abroad during wartime.

Comedians have also been the first in line to perform and to help raise millions of dollars for Americans in need back at home, from Comic Relief for the homeless to Hurricane Katrina.

For many of those who provide service in various capacities, from fireman to teachers and hospital workers — unions, guilds, pension and health plans provide financial help and health services in their difficult times.  But when comedians need help, who’s there for them?

In tough economic times, people in some professions struggle more than others.  Comedians are a case in point.  Okay, they don’t put out four alarm fires, but these talented writers, directors and performers have literally changed the laugh track of our lives.  They are pioneering legends and young performers who have calmed our collective consciousness through some of the more challenging times in American history.  They have educated us through their humor.  They have pushed boundaries; from the TV shows that we rushed home to watch, to the movies that are indelibly etched into our collective pop culture memory and the stand-up comedians that make us think while we laugh. And they deserve our support in times of need.

Comedians simply don’t have a national safety net when they are in crisis, whether it’s a need for housing, health care or other basic services.   Without a union, guild, or other protection (which many other entertainment professions such as film, television and theatre offer), comedians face unique challenges to succeed and survive.

The life of the comedian is very similar to any worker or independent contractor that moves from job to job to make their living.  Work is erratic, security is fleeting, health insurance and a respectable retirement is often just a dream.

To fill some of these gaps, entertainers have been able to turn to The Actors Fund and The Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF)

For 90 years, the MPTF has had a rich history of helping performers in need on the west coast in providing care and support ranging from health care services to retirement housing.  Many of comedy’s great legends have turned to MPTF and their network of services such as Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges; long-time comedic actor Louis Nye; Jerry Colonna, Bob Hope’s side kick; comedic actress Patsy Kelly; and comedian Pat McCormick.

The Actors Fund, since 1882, has served performing arts and entertainment professionals through programs that address their unique and essential needs.  Skilled nursing care and affordable housing, social, health and employment services are all part of how The Actors Fund helps from coast to coast. From Smith and Dale (the “Sunshine Boys”) to “Dr.” Harry Stanley (the “Master of Double Talk”), who both lived in Fund residences, many comedians of all ages have turned to The Fund at different times in their lives.

In a newly created, collaborative effort to provide more services exclusively for comedians, the Entertainment Industry Foundation has joined with The Actors Fund and MPTF, along with Comedy Central and MTV Networks to host “The Comedy Awards,” —  the first-ever multi-network, multi-platform, annual event dedicated to honoring and celebrating the world of comedy, premiering on Sunday, April 10, 2011, simultaneously across MTV Networks’ COMEDY CENTRAL, Spike TV, TV Land and VH1.

The purpose for creating The Comedy Awards and this new collaboration is the establishment of The American Comedy Fund, which, through donations made by the public and others at, will become the first-ever charitable fund dedicated exclusively to providing financial assistance, health benefits and other resources for comedians that qualify across the country during times of distress.  The American Comedy Fund will be administered by EIF in collaboration with the MPTF and The Actors Fund.

A few examples of how The Actors Fund and MPTF have helped comedians illustrate what can be accomplished with this new collaborative fund.

Bill, a comic and comedy writer in his early sixties, was no longer able to work by the time he was in his early fifties due to diabetes and congestive heart failure.  Beset with memory impairments and confined to a wheelchair, he received Social Security disability, a small pension for some of his writing and sporadic financial aid for medical expenses. The Actors Fund helped Bill obtain in-home meal services and home health services – basic needs that were not being met by his income.

And there’s John, a 40-something comedy writer, who has been HIV+ since 1999.  Four years ago he was facing extremely difficult health issues that affected his ability to work. The Actors Fund provided financial assistance for rent and food, and when his health improved, helped him get sideline work. Three years later when his health declined again, The Actors Fund moved him into an affordable housing residence, cutting his rent costs in half.  As his health improved, he’s been writing again — webisodes, jokes for a late night network comedy show, and he’s been hired to write for several well-known comics. In a recent interview, John said:  “Having a dedicated service to people in the entertainment industry is a true godsend. The Actors Fund made a difference in my life. Today, my health has improved, financial stress has begun to leave me, and I am focusing more on my career endeavors.”

In 1998, comedian, veteran comedy writer and performer Pat McCormick was on his way to a show when he suffered a stroke causing his car to careen into a wall and explode into flames.  Bystanders saved his life, but the stroke left him paralyzed on his left side and unable to speak.  Although, as Pat would later remind his friends and fellow comedians — he could still hum!  For the next seven years the Motion Picture & Television Fund provided medical care and emotional support, and when needed, financial assistance.  Pat McCormick was Big Enos in Smokey & the Bandit, and he wrote more gags for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show for 12-years and many other comedians than anyone else.  When crisis struck, the generosity of an industry helped provide quality of life for seven years until his passing in 2005 at MPTF.

Through this new collaboration creating The Comedy Awards & The American Comedy Fund, EIF, MPTF and The Actors Fund, with extraordinary support from Comedy Central and MTV Networks, will utilize their resources and relationships in the entertainment industry to engage the public in raising much needed funds to expand the safety net for comedians.

“Caring for our own” throughout the history of entertainment, our community is often the first to come together for the betterment of those suffering wherever and whenever needed, and our community comes together to support each other from the days of vaudeville to Broadway and Hollywood today.  Through the Comedy Awards, we have found a way for our community, as well as the millions of fans entertained each year by men and woman who make us laugh in clubs, to support comics who need a helping hand.

The American Comedy Fund is a step forward, offering comedians the opportunity to attain what we all strive for and deserve in our lifetimes – a piece of the American Dream.

Lisa Paulsen, President & CEO, Entertainment Industry Foundation

Ken Sherer, CEO, Motion Picture & Television Fund

Joseph P. Benincasa, President, The Actors Fund

From the Archives: Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

April 1, 2011 Comments off


Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly

Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly celebrate The Actors Fund's Centennial at Radio City Music Hall during 1982's nationally-televised Night of 100 Stars.

The Fund fondly remembers the incredibly talented and amazingly generous Elizabeth Taylor, who passed away in March. We admire her dedication to AIDS awareness, and are thankful she was always happy to help The Fund when she could. On behalf the clients and staff of our HIV/AIDS Initiative and everyone at The Fund, Dame Elizabeth, you will be missed.

Give today to help people in entertainment living with HIV/AIDS.

A Cycle of Giving: Zoë Morsette, Broadway Cares’ The Broadway Bears, and The Actors Fund

February 24, 2011 Comments off

Mabel Normand bear for BC/EFA by Zoë Morsette

Zoë Morsette's 2011 Broadway Bear, Mabel Normand.

When people hear the term “Broadway Bears,” many minds immediately conjure images of “Broadway Bares,” the more…shall we say…exposed Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser. But for fourteen years, BC/EFA has been raising money through The Broadway Bears, the annual teddy bear auction for which some of the industry’s most talented theatrical craftspeople recreate some of theatre’s most memorable characters. The event, which takes place this year on Sunday, March 6 at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, has a devoted following, and regularly raises thousands of dollars for BC/EFA’s services. The 2010 auction, for example, raised $101,095. (Note: BC/EFA is the largest funder of The Actors Fund. In 2010, they provided more than $3.4 million to support our programs and services!)

One of The Broadway Bears’ regular designers, Zoë Morsette, celebrates her 10th creation in March, having built a 2011 bear sporting a look from the 1974 production of Jerry Herman’s musical Mack & Mabel. Based on the costume design by Patricia Zipprodt, Zoë’s Mabel Normand bear is taken from the scene in which the character is being directed astride a fake horse in a silent Western. The bear is signed by the show’s star, Bernadette Peters.

Zoë MorsetteA devoted and generous soul, Zoë is a longtime member of New York’s entertainment community. A theatrical craftperson, she’s done props, costumes, models, sculpting, displays, events, and more. She’s worked on more than 37 Broadway shows (her most recent credits include The Addams Family and Shrek), regularly works for Macy’s (she’s built more than 600 items for the company’s parades and events), and has worked for numerous films and television shows, including Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, for which she’s built some fabulously crazy things.

Zoë first became part of The Broadway Bears world when she noticed friends of hers had made some creations for the auction. She leapt at the chance to do something that would raise so much money for an organization she admired.

“I thought, ‘I want to do this—it looks like fun!’” says Zoë. “I also did it in honor of all the friends I ‘d lost. I could never give [Broadway Cares] a donation of thousands of dollars, but so far my bears have brought in over $34,000. So, that’s huge for me.”

When she first began designing bears for BC/EFA, she never dreamed she would find herself in need of help, but three years later, Zoë was diagnosed with cancer. As an independent craftsperson, she was unable to work while undergoing chemotherapy, so she turned to The Actors Fund, which paid for one month’s rent and health insurance. The Fund also connected her with The Episcopal Actors’ Guild, which covered her for two more months.

The Actors Fund’s social services also supported Zoë through that incredibly difficult time. Among other things, her social worker Carol Mannes (who’s now retired) encouraged her to utilize Cancer Care (which helps pay transportation costs to and from treatment) and join Gilda’s Club. To this day, she continues to take advantage of some of The Fund’s special programs.

“That’s why their social services are so good,” says Zoë. “They don’t just give you money, they stay behind you. They give you social services for moral support—who to call, what agencies might be able to help you beyond what they can do—and because they deal with it so much, they know what people need. The best part is, it relieves the stress of how you’re going to pay the rent and not lose your insurance when you’re in treatment. I knew that those bills were covered, so I could relax a little bit and just deal with getting better.”

And of course, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the largest financial supporter of The Actors Fund, and also donates to The Episcopal Actors’ Guild.

“It actually makes me feel good to think that I have brought in money that helps refill the fund,” says Zoë, “and to help other people that are in the same, or worse, situations than I was.”

Zoë Morsette Lord Farquaad Bear

Zoë's 2010 bear, Shrek's Lord Farquaad.

Zoë beat her cancer, got back to work, and continues to build her bears every year. Among her favorite creations are Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast, Pumbaa from The Lion King (a complicated collaboration on which she worked for more than 200 hours), and Milky White the Cow from Into the Woods, which she built during her chemotherapy.

“It was wonderful because I wasn’t allowed to work, because a lot of my work is too physical. But the bear was not, and I needed a project. It totally absorbed me and kept me going. I find that doing them is very therapeutic for me. I can pour everything into it and make it as beautiful as I possibly can.”

Always dealing with the ups and downs of the industry—as most do—Zoë has used her slow work periods to give back to The Actor’s Fund in other ways as well, participating in 2004’s Nothing Like a Dame and regularly taking part in the Revlon Run/Walk (she was featured in the documentary Mira Nair shot during the 2010 event).

“When I have been unemployed, I find that it’s wonderful to be able to volunteer for a really useful organization,” says Zoë. “It never hurts you to help other people, and it usually makes you feel better. And I’ve always found that if I do things like this, I meet people. I even meet people who can maybe help me get work—that wasn’t the intention—but it keeps your name out there and people knowing who you are.”

But The Broadway Bears event is still Zoë’s favorite.

“I think it’s one of the best parties in town, you know,” says Zoë. “There’s an open bar, desserts, and a great show!”

The Broadway Bears XIV takes place on Sunday, March 6, 2011, at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd Street. To purchase tickets, call (212) 840-0770 ext. 229. VIP entry is $150, and includes a private bear preview (with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres), and reserved seating at the auction (with dessert and cocktails). General admission tickets are $35, which includes dessert, cocktails, and unreserved seats at the auction (doors open at 7). The auction begins at 8pm.

–Karissa Krenz

POST-AUCTION UPDATE: Congratulations to BC/EFA! The Broadway Bears XIV raised a total of $103,905! Zoë’s Mack and Mabel bear sold for $3,800, raising her 10-year total to $38,200! Visit Broadway Cares’ website for a complete run-down of the evening.

On Health Care Reform

March 22, 2010 Comments off

Dear Friends,

The health care reform bill passed by Congress last night will benefit every visual and performing artist and entertainment professional in this country. Everyone who supports the arts should be pleased.

Unlike the vast majority of Americans who receive their health insurance from employers or government programs, most artists are forced to find coverage for themselves and their families in the individual or direct-pay market. In most states they can be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and when it is accessible it is often either unaffordable – with premiums that can be raised as much as 39% or more in a year – or so stripped of benefits as to be virtually useless. For this reason, artists – like other self-employed workers – are twice as likely to be uninsured as the general population.

The legislation speaks directly to this unfair situation. Private insurers will no longer be permitted to deny coverage or cancel policies based on claims’ history. An essential health benefits package will be available to everyone, at levels of cost-sharing that fit their health care needs. Variations in premiums based on age, which can now be as much as a 7 to 1 ratio, will be limited to 3 to 1. State-based exchanges will be created to bring the cost-benefits of group insurance to individuals and families. Those of low to moderate means will receive credits and/or subsidies to keep their premiums at an affordable percentage of their incomes. Out-of-pocket expenses in any year will be limited to approximately $6,000 for individuals and $12,000 for families, and there will be no annual or lifetime limits on coverage.

In other words, this legislation makes available to artists health insurance that is as good or better than the best plans currently available to employees of private corporations, government workers, and union members. Its passage has done more for the health and well-being of the visual and performing arts and entertainment communities than any piece of legislation in the past fifty years.

We will be providing more information on a regular basis to you and our community. For more information, please contact James Brown, Director of Health Services. You can reach him via email at or call him directly at 212.221.7300 ext.166.

Joseph Benincasa
President and CEO,
The Actors Fund

Health Care for Everyone

September 17, 2009 Comments off

It’s a simple goal which so many people have sought for almost a century.  Yet how to get our country to reach this goal has eluded us.

The creative community served by The Actors Fund is famously resourceful in finding affordable housing, jobs to supplement careers in the arts, financial support and health care. To help our community secure affordable health insurance and health care, The Actors Fund has, among our many supportive programs, provided emergency financial assistance and case management, facilitated legislation in New York to offset the cost of COBRA and created the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic (and partnered with other clinics) to provide medical assistance for those who are under- or un-insured.

And now we have launched a new website to educate about the need for health insurance and to give our community the tools to be involved and play a role in making sure that everyone is insured. It’s called Artists United for Health Care.

The Actors Fund’s efforts in health insurance began in 1995 when we won a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop a website to help artists across the country secure health insurance. As part of our Artists Health Insurance Resource Center, this highly valued service evolved with significant help from the Commonwealth Foundation and the SAG-IACF Fund and today provides state-by-state resources to more than 600,000 visitors a year at

Artists United for Health Care was developed with support from Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), which receives support from the Ford Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), a foundation which promotes knowledge sharing, networking and the financial independence of individual artists by providing business-related training, grants and loans and also incubates innovative programs for the field.

Forty-seven percent of artists are self-employed: that’s a number three and a half times greater than the general population A recent National Endowment for the Arts study showed that actors have a median income of just $23,400, musicians earn just $22,600 annually and the median for dancers is $20,000. And, compared to the national average of 70 percent, only 15 percent of actors have full year, full time employment. Those who work in the arts are twice as likely to be uninsured as the general population, with over 30 percent unable to obtain health insurance. So it’s clear that Health Care reform is a critical issue for the Creative Community.

We have an opportunity to reform our Health Care system so that EVERYONE is covered.  Please visit, click on your state, then press the ACT tab. Thank you!

Joseph Benincasa
President and CEO,
The Actors Fund