Some may remember today’s date, October 1, 2013, for the temporary government shutdown that resulted from political posturing in Washington. If you work in the arts and culture sector, however, it is a day to shout “hip hip hooray,” because today the Affordable Care Act went into effect. There are over 3 million arts and culture workers in the US, many of them uninsured free-lance/self-employed artists. The Affordable Care Act will give this group access to health insurance coverage that it has never had access to before. For over a decade, Fractured Atlas, the arts services organization, has provided health insurance coverage to over 3000 artists. Now artists can be part of a health insurance pool that is millions strong – making their insurance coverage even more accessible, and no longer subject to the market vicissitudes Adam Huttler describes in his joyful and nostalgic announcement about the end of the Fractured Atlas program.
Many artists have faced difficult choices about their art-making because of the inaccessibility of health coverage. In a guest post here in 2011, Deputy Commissioner of the Arizona Commission on the Arts Jaime Dempsey called healthcare “the elephant in the room:”
access to affordable health care and some modicum of professional security can now literally mean the difference between life and death, for artists and everyone else.
Access to healthcare was certainly part of my own decision calculus to enter academia 25 years ago. The Affordable Care Act will, eventually, make it possible for artists to make more art (and as I like to say, “more art is better than less art”). When David Dower interviewed me for one of his Friday Phone Calls, I suggested that an artist needs three types of infrastructure to be truly creative: the physical bricks and mortar of space and place, organizational infrastructure to support the creation and distribution of art, and personal infrastructure. The Affordable Care Act shores up an important part of that personal infrastructure, not just for artists, but for all Americans.