Health Insurance is No Longer an Artist-Specific Problem
In 2001, under the guise of the Artists Affordable Healthcare Initiative, Fractured Atlas began offering health insurance to a long underserved population of artists. For decades, non-traditional employment models had put our community at a severe disadvantage in the US health insurance marketplace. With its ambitious promise of a slightly more level playing field, our health insurance program quickly became Fractured Atlas’s most visible and popular service. Over 3,000 artists enrolled in our plans, often getting better coverage for less money than would otherwise have been possible.
I’m extremely proud of our work on this front. It certainly hasn’t been easy. As vital as our health insurance program was, it was also a constant challenge to maintain and support. More than once (actually, four times!) an insurance company canceled our group policy with little or no notice. We’ve been attacked by brokers who saw us as a competitive threat and insurance regulators who didn’t understand the role we played. But we kept at it, because without Fractured Atlas, many artists (including quite a few with serious medical conditions) would have had no viable options for buying health insurance. Yet, despite all our hard work we remained powerless to address the underlying problem: a health insurance system that was structurally flawed.
Today I can announce - with joy and a faint pang of nostalgia - that Fractured Atlas will no longer be offering health insurance enrollments. The community for which we have advocated for so long is no longer disadvantaged by a health insurance system that could neither understand nor accommodate its needs.
Fractured Atlas has been a vocal advocate of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) since day one. It contains some compromises and is decidedly imperfect, but it’s a huge improvement over what we’ve been battling for the past 12 years. More to the point: health insurance is no longer an artist-specific problem. Starting today, self-employed artists can go to any of the new online insurance exchanges and have all the benefits and protections that for decades were only possible as part of a large group: coverage for pre-existing conditions, community rating, guaranteed issue, and lower premiums based on large risk pools.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act there is no longer a need for Fractured Atlas to be in the business of providing group health insurance. As we wind down this program I want to say “thank you” to all those artists who have joined with us over the years and taken shelter under our umbrella. Together we were able not only to weather the storm but to share the relief of finally finding ourselves on a dry and level playing field. We’re looking forward to helping transition our subscribers to new and better plans through the new exchanges.
Best of all, removing health insurance from our institutional plate means we can redouble our efforts on the gazillion other huge, systemic challenges that face the arts and cultural sector. Artists still need our help with liability insurance, audience development, space, and more. It’s satisfying to pause and reflect for a moment on the progress we’ve made as a field. But then it’s time to get back to work, albeit with one fewer item on our long-term to-do list.