Chapel Hill’s Lynn Blakey is 51 years old and a professional musician – which means that, for most of her adult life, she’s not had health insurance.
Blakey had coverage for several years after college, through a job at Music Loft in Carrboro. But she’s done without it since the mid-1980s while playing guitar and singing in acclaimed yet not terribly commercial bands including ’80s college-radio stars Let’s Active and country-folk group Tres Chicas.
Music, restaurant and child care work added up to a living, though not enough of one for her to afford the routine health care that comes with insurance. So Blakey never went to the doctor. When she got sick, she had to manage it herself and hope colds didn’t turn into pneumonia.
But Blakey and her German-born husband, Ecki Heins, now have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Blakey, who sang on the N.C. Music Love Army album that grew out of last year’s Moral Monday protests, has emerged as a vocal ACA proponent urging her peers to sign up. She feels sheepish relief about finally joining the ranks of the insured.
Last year, the Future of Music Coalition advocay group surveyed 3,400 musicians and artists. Among its respondents, the survey found that 53 percent of musicians and 43 percent of artists overall did not have insurance, mostly because of cost.
“The biggest reason for everyone, 88 percent, was that they couldn’t afford it,” said the coalition’s Kristin Thomson. “Artists tend to be self-employed freelance contractors, ineligible for employer-provided group plans, and their income tends to be pieced together from multiple sources. The ACA was set up to help people like this.”
The coalition plans a follow-up survey later this year. If the law works as intended, the number of uninsured musicians and artists should drop dramatically.
But sorting out the impact might take some time. The deadline to sign up through the law’s health-insurance exchanges has been extended through March, and plenty of people (musicians included) have yet to figure out what to do. The 2013 FMC survey found that more than half of its musician/artist respondents were unsure how the law would affect them.