The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/music/2020-12-02/virtual-enrollment-and-new-funding-boost-haam-sign-up-period-which-is-now/

Virtual Enrollment and New Funding Boost HAAM Sign-up Period, Which is Now

By Kevin Curtin, December 2, 2020, 3:00pm, Earache!

In a typical year – one without an airborne viral outbreak – this week would see multitudes of local musicians lined up around the Foundation Communities building, waiting to enroll with HAAM. In 2020, singing up for the health care nonprofit’s services pivots virtually.

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which connects local music makers to affordable health care plans and helps with tax credits and premium assistance, began enrolling 2021 members last month. While the sign-up period extends through Dec. 15, HAAM COO Rachel Hanss Blair implores artists to sign up now.

”In previous iterations of open enrollment, you could procrastinate and wait until the last minute,” Hanss Blair tells the Chronicle. “Now that we have appointments, we need people to make them as soon as possible because we only a certain number we can do every day. So we need our procrastinators not to procrastinate. The sooner you come in, the better likelihood you’ll have to have increased funding.”

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Last November, the Chronicle reported on the tireless workers at HAAM and Foundation Communities breaking a single day record with 204 musicians signed up. That’s not possible presently, with an appointment-based system.

Annually, HAAM tries to enroll roughly 2,000 local musicians. As of Wednesday morning, roughly 500 spots remain. Existing members have been emailed the necessary 2021 application info, while perspective enrollees can go to the HAAM website and click on the “Become a Member” section.

The ensuring virtual appointment, which handles your virtual marketplace and funding enrollment, usually lasts 30-90 minutes. New marketplace insurance plans go into effect Jan. 1 and Hanss Blair notes that HAAM members save an average of $605 per month on insurance costs. She calls getting enrollment pulled off this year a “widespread community effort.”

The pandemic, which hampered in-person fundraising events, left the organization with major funding gaps. Austin’s Economic Development Department helped close that shortfall with a $500,000 contribution Hanss Blair says processed “at lightning speed” for a city contract. The Travis County operated Central Health, meanwhile, gave HAAM an increase of $640,000.

“It has made a huge, huge, difference,” she stresses. “Without this extra funding, we would have had hundreds of musicians who had insurance last year lose it and the new musicians we were trying to encourage to join [BIPOC] wouldn’t have been able to get on. We were sweating it, but this helped us make up for some of the fundraising loses.”

Hanss Blair admits the HAAM staff missed seeing musicians in-person this year, but acknowledges applicants likely don’t miss standing in line. If it proves to be a more efficient process, the office will consider virtual appointments going forward.

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