Warning: this is not a Valentine's Day post. No rainbows, no butterflies, no chocolate-covered hearts. Sorry.
The morning after another (surprise!) snowstorm in New York City, here I am glaring -- with one eye -- at faint reflections that vaguely resemble Latin letters across my laptop screen. To be clear, a "one-eyed romantic pirate" was not exactly the image I was aiming for on Valentine's Day. Yet, after endless hours of staring at the flickering screen, my left eye has decided to take a well-deserved vacation. Hence the pirate eyepatch.
The logical solution is right in front of my (so far, knock on wood) healthy right eye -- make an appointment with my ophthalmologist asap. If only. As most of us already know, vision insurance is not included in basic health care packages. A regular health insurance plan only covers unexpected eye injury and disease. What about routine eye exams and other basic vision-related procedures, aside from discounts on contact lenses and eyeglasses? Too bad. Get a vision insurance as a supplement in addition to the already horrendous basic health care package, or else (here's the dreaded part) pay cash for each visit.
While gun control is still one of the most pressing issues in our country (a proud U.S. citizen since 2011, hurrah!), let's face it, health insurance is of no less importance and urgency. In no way am I qualified to comment on Obamacare and in-depth discussions about this problem as a whole, but the fact that the cost and quality of health care remains a major issue for millions of Americans is undeniable. For those of us that are self-employed independent contractors, this is no joke.
Last summer, Future of Music Coalition and Artists' Health Insurance Resource Center conducted a survey among U.S.-based independent artists, like yours truly, regarding our access to health insurance. Out of 3,402 artists, 43 percent of us are currently uninsured. Here's the worst part -- according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, this is more than double the national estimate of 18 percent uninsured of those between the ages of 0 and 64. "Shocking" is an understatement.
It is important to note in our (musicians') defense that like in most other freelance professions, performers' and composers' incomes will vary on monthly basis. To give you an example, royalties received by the songwriter are based on the license fees that are collected from the radio stations playing the composition. The amount of times the radio station will play the song on day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis will, of course, vary. Performance rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI and SOCAN, track and calculate the exact payment for each performance and consecutively divide the royalties between songwriters, publishers, etc. The bottom line is -- there is no stability as such in terms of a steady income for artists and songwriters, among other freelancers, of course. So how does one secure a stable health insurance package under these circumstances?
Other than the same old advice given by those on the other side of the fence to aspiring and active musicians: "Don't give up the day job," there doesn't seem to be a clear and immediate solution to the problem. If you can afford a reasonable health care package that includes all of the additional supplements, then you're "covered" in every sense of the word. Otherwise... Good luck!
As my uncovered "non-pirate eye" is about to give in and call it a day, I realize no matter how hard I resist, an imminent visit to an ophthalmologist is most likely inevitable. So off I venture to the nearest ATM... And on that note, one last thought (or wish, rather) -- may we all, for the benefit of our pockets, individual and collective peace of mind, be healthy in 2014 and beyond. Happy, healthy Valentine's Day, America!