Some [non-political...maybe] thoughts about what health care reform might mean for musicians and fans
The first thing I flashed on last February when I heard that Buddy Miller had a heart attack was whether or not he had health insurance. Really...I did. But then I thought about Julie's long written about health issues and figured that they were probably covered. And also seeing that Buddy is fortunate enough to always be working either on the road or in the studio, it's probably something within their budget. Did anybody here know Drew Glackin? He was a gifted New York multi-instrumentalist, a member of the bands the Silos and Tandy, and an in-demand touring musician. Glackin died in January 2008 of a thyroid condition that went undetected, at least in part, because he couldn't afford health insurance. You may also recall back in 2003 when Alejandro Escovedo was fighting hepatitis c and was awash in medical bills. A series of benefits across the country helped him out. These past couple of years have seen musicians such as Chris Gaffney, Duane Jarvis and Killer Kane pass on....and there were benefits for them to assist with their medical costs. And people helped out Peter Case recently, and Stacy Earle's son. In an article posted at www.indyweek.com, I found this: "While the music community is always quick and eager to jump in to help when one of their own falls ill, it begins to feel like throwing oneself up against a brick wall," says Triangle musician Caitlin Cary, who helped arrange the Escovedo and Glackin benefits. "The best-organized benefits raise tens of thousands; someone sick in the hospital without insurance often needs hundreds of thousands. It's high time we take on the real monster and do what it takes to get ourselves insured." "Affordability is no doubt the biggest issue, but that's surely not the only stumbling block. I think so-called creative types tend to find the whole system frightening," Cary says. "We procrastinate because we dread the task of trying to make sense of the insurance industry." According to the folks at HINT (Health Insurance Navigation Tool) between 15 and 16 percent of Americans don't have health insurance, but 45 percent of musicians are uninsured. And out of the 55 percent of musicians that actually carry health insurance, only 5 percent have insurance because of their job in music. That 5 percent is largely comprised of orchestra members and session musicians, not your average touring rock 'n' roller. The remainder have health insurance through another job or because they pay out of pocket for an individual plan. Now I promised this was going to be non-political, and I'll try to keep it that way. But the facts are that in our particular little alt-community here, many of the musicians we have loved over the years are growing older with us. And as physical sales of CD's wind down and touring options decrease, their declining incomes and inability to afford and pay for health insurance will create literally a life or death situation. I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the current health reform debate in Washington. All I see on television are a lot of old guys in suits who have great health insurance telling us why we should care or not about those who don't. In this great big wealthy country of ours where we throw billions of dollars to failed banks and automakers, whose executives collect millions in bonuses for failing and bringing the economy down to it's knees...well it just seems we should be able to pass a bill that could bring some assistance to that guitar picker, singer or songwriter who enrich our lives with the sweet sounds of music. By the way, a diagnosis and inexpensive prescription could have helped Drew Glackin beat the thyroid condition from which he died. Just ten months after he passed, AIG executives spent $343,000 on a company retreat at a luxury resort in Phoenix. You know...I'm angry. Feel free to join me.