Planet Rock

Austin, Texas, SXSW 2005

Planet Rock
Photo By Gary Miller

Health Care for Musicians Panel

Austin Convention Center, Saturday, March 19

Musicians aren't the only demographic that has difficulty finding affordable quality health care in America. "We need to figure out how to get services to musicians on a pathway toward getting services for everybody," explained writer Dave Marsh, who's hosted this SXSW panel for the last five years. There is some good news on the health care front, such as last week's introduction of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and a hard-won fight by AFTRA to get major labels to provide health insurance to union vocalists on their artist rosters. However, there are major cuts being proposed in Tennessee that would kick 300,000 people off of TennCare, the state's Medicaid program. "TennCare was a model program that's been gutted," said Joann Klabin of Sweet Relief, a nonprofit founded by singer-songwriter Victoria Williams to help uninsured musicians pay for health care. Nashville-based promoter Scott Dudelson is organizing musicians to resist the plan. Although musician's unions have helped improve access to health insurance, Jennifer Toomey of D.C.'s Future of Music Coalition conducted a study that found musicians weren't able to easily use these avenues. As a result, the coalition is setting up a national referral hotline later this year for musicians in need. Ultimately, Marsh posited that a national single-payer system is the only way to lower costs and provide universal access to health care. "We need a mass movement to end this charade that the health care industry is about health care and not profit," Marsh said.

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