HAAM Enrollment Rolls On

It’s not too late to sign up and get premium assistance

The long line outside HAAM's office at Foundation Communities on the opening day of enrollment
The long line outside HAAM's office at Foundation Communities on the opening day of enrollment (Photo by Kevin Curtin)

Last Friday, so many musicians lined up to register for HAAM that the enrollment office looked like Franklin’s Barbecue.

Artist and instrumentalists, some of whom’d played midnight and 1am sets the night before, awoke early and queued up in the cold morning air to take advantage of Austin’s musician health care program, which helps them access to affordable healthcare via subsidies, premium assistance, and connections to an array of local services.

Alas, despite hundreds showing up, day one saw only 20 members getting fully registered thanks to technical issues with HealthCare.gov, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians Chief Operating Officer Rachel Blair confirmed. With enrollment at a standstill, HAAM representatives served coffee and snacks to people waiting in line while also guiding 225 prospective members through intake paperwork to expedite the process. For my own part, this reporter/musician brought emergency beers to people stuck in line.

Blair says she was blown away by how “understanding and thankful” the musicians remained during the debacle.

The following day, HAAM broke its own one-day enrollment record, signing up 204 musicians for 2020 plans. Blair said spending time with so many members of Austin’s music community and hearing their stories reaffirms the importance of the non-profit’s work.

“One woman there had just had surgery related to breast cancer, another person mentioned to me they had had cancer three times,” she reports. “Others were coming because their whole family depends on it and they have kids at home. They’re there because health care coverage is not optional for them.”

As in recent years, musicians are motivated to enroll early for HAAM in order to get dibs on a limited supply of premium assistance — in which the non-profit helps them pay their monthly insurance premium — doled out on a first come, first served basis. Blair notes that HAAM has more money for premium assistance than it did last year, while premium pricing has remained stable in the insurance marketplace. Last year, the organization’s premium assistance coffers ran out seven or eight days into enrollment and Blair expects the same timetable this period.

“Premium assistance is a valuable, but when it runs out I don’t want people to stop coming in and enrolling,” she stresses. “What gets undersold is the ACA [Affordable Care Act] alone. The majority of our folks quality for hefty subsidies through the marketplace. Last year the average HAAM member got 400 dollars a month off their monthly premium, just because of the ACA. So if people don’t come in, they’re potentially leaving a bunch of money on the table that could make their plans very affordable.”

Last year, HAAM had 1,983 Austin musicians sign up during the six week open enrollment period and they expects similar numbers this year. If you are an Austin musician — the organization currently doesn’t have resources to help non-musician industry workers — you’ll need to sign up in person at HAAM’s Foundation Communities office at 5900 Airport Blvd, open Monday through Saturday, starting at 9am.

For it to go as smoothly as possible, make sure you have a marketplace account from HealthCare.gov and working login credentials, then bring proof of income (pay-stubs or self-employment info), a government ID, and proof of musicianship.

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HAAM, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Rachel Blair

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