How Will Obamacare Affect Musicians?

The Affordable Care Act could offer a path to health care for struggling artists.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government could offer this deal to the states but not force them to accept it. Texas opted not to accept the expansion, along with states like Florida and Louisiana. On a recent trip to Houston, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Texas's decision costs the state $18 million in federal funding per day.

Tianna Hall: "These artists are left to be treated like second-class citizens."

That leaves residents stuck with the old Medicaid rules, and in Texas, only the parents of dependent children are eligible. (Nondisabled people without children, such as the Kidds, are not eligible for Medicaid at any income level.) Any Texan making less than $15,280 — not unheard of for many local musicians — fails to qualify for federal aid in purchasing insurance. Luckily, though, he or she is at least not subject to fines from the health law's individual mandate at that level.

The state's rejection of the Medicaid expansion is one of the reasons Texas continues to have the highest number of uninsured people in the nation at currently around 5 million people, or one-fifth of the state's population. Put another way, only 8 percent of Americans are Texans, but 12 percent of all uninsured Americans live in Texas.

After a bad fall, Zain's compound fracture required expensive surgery — money was raised through a benefit concert.
Courtesy Sean Ozz
After a bad fall, Zain's compound fracture required expensive surgery — money was raised through a benefit concert.

The Kidds' first brush with the health-care system came when Christian's mother suffered a stroke in 2003 that left her wheelchair-bound, partially paralyzed and ultimately unable to work. Christian devoted himself to her care, but the costs were very high. Even though she had Medicare, ultimately he was forced to sell her furniture and watch her car get repossessed in order to afford hospice care for her. The Hates played few gigs during those years, though they did have at least one memorable show during which a vanguard of punk fans ushered Christian's mother to the front of the stage in her wheelchair.

He would relive the experience of caring for a chronically ill loved one in 2007. Shortly after Christian was hit by a distracted driver while on his scooter, Alexis suddenly developed an unbearable pain in her abdomen and was diagnosed with a rare form of mesothelioma that attacked her diaphragm instead of the lungs. That day was also Christian's 52nd birthday.

At that time Alexis held not one but two jobs and lost no time in using her health benefits to the maximum. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy and even took part in a new health-advocate nurse program that basically gave her a personal assistant, ensuring that at least one person was always in her corner cutting through the red tape of the medical ­industry.

Naturally, long-term care and the effects of the treatment took a significant toll on Alexis's health and required time away from work. "After each infusion of chemo, I would be in the hospital for a minimum of three days," she says.

Eventually her day job was eliminated, leaving her without health insurance at one of the most vulnerable times in her life; her second job offered no benefits. She remained on COBRA, the federal government's program that allows for temporary continuation of health coverage, but the expense soon proved unsustainable.

The Kidds' coverage under Obamacare comes at a steep cost as well. Christian works five full days a week at Fuller's Guitar and another two full days at a multiservice center in order to pay the almost $500-a-month platinum-plan premium. It's the only one available on that allows Alexis to keep the doctors who initially saved her life in 2009. The stress of working so much takes its toll on Houston's punk elder statesman. For him, the affordable part of the Affordable Care Act is still a work in progress, though he gladly sacrifices his time and energy in order to provide the care. But at least she's covered now.

One musician who's not is Johnny Simmons, a full-time drummer who spends an average of 40-50 hours a week playing, practicing and teaching. Simmons's average pay has not increased throughout his 25-year career, he claims, but he's hopeful his extensive experience as a worship musician might help him acquire coverage through faith-based alternatives like Samaritan Ministries.

When it comes to your average bar gig, though, Simmons says he's been onstage with the likes of Toy Subs since 1986 and his payout hasn't changed significantly, either. Back then a night's pay would average $100 to $200; that's usually what he gets now. Super Happy Fun Land owner Brian Arthur provides similar numbers, saying that a local act that brings in 100 people can expect to split $350 among band members. Touring bands often receive less at the venue, though Arthur says he always makes sure to front them enough for gas and food to their next destination.

"This is why they say don't quit your day job," he cautions. "The vast majority of musicians don't even cover their expenses, much less average a positive income."

Another club owner, Rusty Andrews of ­McGonigel's Mucky Duck, confirms the haphazard, often negative cash flow experienced by some Houston musicians.

"A local musician may have a nice night and earn $1,500 or more from the door; however, he has to pay his three sidemen," he says. "Do they share equally? Who knows? Also, they may not have another gig for a week, or the next gig may bring in less than the last one. Some musicians have to have a day job to supplement their living from music, which of course raises their annual wage, and they then may not qualify for the subsidy offered by the ACA."

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sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

notice how this article touches on the musicians care fund




THEY write songs about people , caring about people, loving people 



sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

You can look up johnathan Gruber

if you hvae been living under a rock as he is the second ACA "Founder" to ADMIT THE FOLLOWING: (THESE ARE HIS WORDS, NOT SOME RIGHT WINGERS:::

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical to get this thing to pass. 

In other words, yes, Obamacare redistributes healthcare.

Yes, Obamacare will endanger people who cannot afford healthcare because they are young and healthy, all in order to pay for government benefits for those who are sick. And yes, in order to control the resulting costs, care will have to be cut for the elderly. 

Gruber isn’t the only Obamacare architect to tell the truth about Obamacare’s view of redistribution.

 Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who has said that he wishes to die at age 75, wrote in February 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality of care are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change.

He added that the Hippocratic Oath was to blame, since it encourages doctors to care for the patients before them without concern for “cost or effect on others.” He told the Washington Post, “We had a big controversy in the United States when there was a limited number of dialysis machines. In Seattle, they appointed what they called a 'God committee' to choose who should get it, and that committee was eventually abandoned. Society ended up paying the whole bill for dialysis instead of having people make those decisions.”

If the idea of a God committee sounds rather like Sarah Palin’s death panel, that’s because that’s what it is.


Obamacare is an alternative to universal healthcare. Alternatives goods and services are being created everyday.


I read the article and it was well written but it did not by any means change my views on Ocare.  I will continue to believe that health care reform needed to come by way of the insurance and pharmacutical companies not by way of the citizens.  People should not be forced to purchase health insurance, which Ocare does, especially coverage and policies that govt officials are exempt from.  If Ocare is so wonderful then by all means it should be just as wonderful for the elected officials.  Doctors and hospital are still regulated by the insurance companies and coverage does not guarantee care.  Death panels exists as well. The expense of rate increases in many employer funded and private funded polices is done in order for the insurance companies to meet the demands of the requirements of Ocare. Many people lost their full time jobs because employers could not afford the rate increases of the plans.  Many people lost plans and their doctors so that other could receive health care at no cost or at subsidized costs.  The insurance companies still control the health care of the citizens which is wrong.  Prior to Ocare people had plans based on their needs they weren’t require to pay in the coverage package things that other people need.  There was already govt and state insurance in place - medicare and medicaid - revisions needed to be made from those since taxpayers already fund those. So in addition to many tax payers who fall in the gap of not being able to afford coverage even through the market place and lost coverage through their employers are still paying taxes for the govt and state insurance and will be paying a penalty tax for not being covered.  I am always glad when someone can get the health care they need and as a parent of an autistic child myself, I know the cost of therapies and therapies don’t “guarantee” success, but they do help provide progress.  If you choose a career that can not provide you with the income to support yourself or your family including health care, then by all means, you may have to supplement that income.   Ocare is still a joke, no American Citizen should be forced to purchase health insurance and since citizens already pay taxes towards govt and state funded insurance - this is where the reform needed to come in.  Ocare is a platform for conversion to socialized medicine.  As a self-employed person I can’t afford covered and under the market place it is a subsidized amount that is still unaffordable BUT REQUIRED BY LAW - and any income tax return I would get will be seized to reimburse the payment of the subsidies and I get thsi at the cost of other people - that’s just not right - I’ve seen how all these musicians can receive coverage through the market place but there was nothing in the story about the cost to non muscians, the loss of policies, the loss of full time jobs, the fact that the officials who developed and require the coverage are exempt from and will be exempt from it for life.  There are tragedies in all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor and the end result of a life is death, with or without health insurance coverage.  Again, it was well written and a very empathic article to some that need coverage, but it by no means justified the wrongs that are happening in order for this to be effective. We as Christians should give and help from our hearts because that is what we are called to do, we should not be forced to do anything through govt regulations.

Jim Rassinier
Jim Rassinier

Musicians? I was a musician for a good 5 years when I was in my 20's...


Hopefully through articles like this we can leave the hype behind & have more open discussions about how at the end of the day people just want to be able to afford to take care of themselves & those they love... & then make strides towards improving upon the foundation that has been laid by the ACA.  It is far from perfect, but it is a first step in a better direction.  Thank you, Jef, for taking the care to be as balanced as possible about a subject that inspires so much passion on every side.


Great article. Hopefully this opens the eyes of those who don't understand why the ACA (and hopefully a future single payer system) are necessary.


Excellent job, Jef. Thank you for being our voice.

sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter


but this is an article on the ACA and its short sighted at best

and flat out dishonest or worse





gov official saying


JefWithOneF topcommenter

@the.fae  I really did try to see all sides, and I'm glad it's being well-received. Thanks for reading!

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