Affordable Care Act to Be a Boon to Performing Arts Workers

By Robert Simonson
06 Jul 2012

Jim Brown

Young people—in many ways the backbone of the theatre world, because they represent the future of the art—will, in particular, profit from the advent at the ACA.

"In the performing arts we have a lot of younger people," said Brown. "The industry is heavily weighted toward that. That's when people see if they can make a living in it. The mandate is terrific for those people, because otherwise a lot of them don't usually buy insurance. They see themselves as healthy or invincible. It's not uncommon at the Actors Fund that we see someone who's young who's uninsured and now suddenly has a bill of $80,000 because of an accident or a week in the hospital."

Additionally, there is the proviso that will allow young actors to remain on their parents' health insurance plan until they are 26. "This is huge," said Brown. "It's just tremendous. This really permits them to not take that risk. You're just another child on your family's insurance. You don't have to live with your folks, you can be independent, and still be on their insurance."

People under 30 will also be allowed to buy what is known as catastrophic health insurance, which will protect them against financially ruinous health bills.

The ACA will not just alter the lives of individuals. It is already changing the way small performing arts businesses conduct their affairs.

"From the day the law was set in March 2010, there's been a subsidy for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees where the average income is less than $50,000," said Brown. "If the company pays 50 percent of the health care of the people who work there, then the government will pay 35 percent for a for-profit company. For a nonprofit, it's 25 percent. In 2014, it becomes 35 percent for a nonprofit and 50 percent for for-profit."

This is significant, since many people in the theatre industry work for small businesses, be they small theatres, video production companies, bands or dance organizations. Brown knows of a number of such outfits who are currently looking into insuring their employees. "It's been impossible before this. This subsidy puts it within their reach." (Under the ACA, only large companies of more than 50 people are mandated to offer insurance to their people.)

The Actors Fund is doing its utmost to get the word out about the ACA and help theatre professionals understand how they stand to benefit. "Every Artist Insured," an explanatory 12-page booklet, can be found on the Actors Fund website. And, the Fund is giving seminars all around the country.

"In my view, the Democrats have done a bad job of explaining what this is about," said Brown. "When people find out the details, they'll like it."