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Cover Story: Obamacare Still Lacking for Some Local Musicians

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January 1, 2014 saw most of the final stages of President Barack Obama's signature legislation, the health-care reform initiative known as both the official title of the Affordable Care Act and more derisively as Obamacare, start to be implemented. The individual mandate that requires every able person to purchase insurance or suffer a tax sent thousands to HealthCare.gov, a glitchy mess of a site that many found confusing and unworkable, though it has since improved dramatically. The State of Texas' refusal to accept the federal government's expansion of Medicaid continues to leave hundreds of thousands without coverage promised by law.

Among those heavily affected by the ever-rising cost of health care are local musicians, most of whom make very little money even when working full-time hours. Three years ago, when the debate about the law was heating up prior to passage, we took an in-depth look at how the lack of a social safety net might be robbing Houston of its many musicians' full talents, while people who make it struggle to do so while providing for themselves and their families.

With the debate over and the federal government making a new push to reach younger Americans, this week's Houston Press cover story is an exploration of how exactly some of our biggest acts like The Hates and Blaggards are benefiting under the law, with some receiving coverage themselves or for a loved one for the first time in years.

Others, like Kerry Melonson who performs as Satin Hooks and Faberge, are still not convinced that Obamacare will make any meaningful headway into the problem of uninsured artists. He recently found himself in Ben Taub with a severe leg injury, and from his point of view acquiring coverage has not gotten any easier with the ACA.

"The ultimate result is, it still costs money for health insurance and it still isn't very affordable to those who couldn't afford health insurance to begin with," says Melonson via email. "The barrier is still a monetary one. I don't have the funding to pay for a bunch of specialists and treatments.

"If there was accessible health care, maybe I'd be even more healthy," he continues. "Maybe I'd be emotionally stronger. Maybe for those really dark times, dealing with depression or all the energy it takes to deal with others' depression, such as romantic partners' or bandmates' issues. If you're a creative person not from money or without financial backers...well, the joke's on you."

The law has already changed the landscape of health care for musicians, and we're glad to lay out a few of them for our readers. Read "Sick and Roll" at this link.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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