Sound HealthCare For Musicians
First of all, the disclaimer. One reason I like my blog is it is mine. It has zero commercial influence other than I want to tell people about bands and artists I like, and I hope someday I will be able to advertise my book. I accept no advertisement money. That way I can write whatever I think and don’t have to answer to anyone but my readers, myself, and the Good Lord.
So with that intro, I want to tell you about a project I got interested in at an IBMA conference. It is called Sound HeathCare. They are not an insurance company, but they are in the heath insurance business.
For some time now I have worried about the lack of affordable health insurance for my musician friends. I recall years ago when the Nashville Bluegrass Band was involved in an accident. My first reaction was fear for their well being, but it was followed up with concern for their medical bills. That was a while back and things are even more expensive now.
I believe it was one of the Renos who said you don’t know about overhead until your diesel fuel bill runs in the tens of thousands of dollars. Many working bands can’t add on the expense of independent health insurance and stay out on the road.
An additional problem is the lack of portability. One musician at the conference told us about the day he had a heart attack. He was first seen in the state where he had insurance, but they flew him out to a Medical Center across the state line. His inital bills were paid by his insurance, but the expensive work at the second facility was not covered on his policy. His out of pocket expense was thousands of dollars.
I realized the plight of the uninsured musician years ago, and began to write the IBMA of my concerns. I suspect they heard from a lot of folks, because they listened. They found a group called Sound HeathCare who now brokers insurance for their members. Sound HeathCare made a presentation at the IBMA business convention. In my humble opinion as a country doc who loves bluegrass music and the folks who play it, they are a group we need to listen to.
They are not an insurance company. They are a broker for health insurance and specialize in musicians. In fact, the CEO and founding partner, Mr. R.J. Stillwell, is a former touring musician himself.
The fact they are a broker is very important. In this role we are given some leverage. There is very little we as individuals can do to negotiate with a big insurance company. Private health insurance without a broker is a take it or leave it proposition, and on their terms only.
The equation changes with a broker. Sound HeathCare has the power to bring large groups of people to the table. (They were selected by the CMA first and then the IBMA followed suit) They broker health insurance for these and other music organizations. The very important point is this: Because they represent a large number of people, they can hold the insurance company’s feet to the fire. If one company gets too high-handed they can ditch them. They can’t bring these giant companies to their knees, but they can at least make them listen to our collective voice or lose the business of a very large number of customers.
Believe me, the insurance companies will listen if the people are empowered. Malpractice insurance is very expensive, but because of a co-op we formed as docs, we have been able to command significant discounts. We deal with a good company, but they can not afford to become too expensive or unresponsive. If they did so, our broker might shop around. Sound Health Care can take advantage of this same dynamic when they deal with the insurance companies who provide your health insurance.
They also have tackled the other major significant obstacle for a touring musician. Their coverage is portable. In other words, they only broker with companies who offer insurance that is accepted on a national basis. I have often worried my friends who have good insurance that serves them well at home in the Carolinas could have a stroke way out west and be out of luck. The gentleman in the audience who had a heart attack is a great example, and he only crossed one state line. Heck, many of the musicians I know travel that far before lunch! Because the executives of SoundHeath Care are musicians themselves they not only understand this problem, but have dealt with it for their own families.
As I said, this is not a paid advertisement. I only know what I learned in a one hour seminar at the IBMA, but I like what I heard. The company is relatively new (three of four years I think) but I believe they are here to stay because they address fundamental concepts that speak to the specific needs of working musicians.
My advice is this. If you have good health insurance that is portable and affordable, hold onto it. If you don’t have that kind of coverage, check out Sound HealthCare. One thing is certain. I know you remember the old saying, “Don’t leave home without it.” I hope you guys will do what you can to not go out on the road without health insurance. One catastrophe could sink you for life.
If you are in my neck of the woods, I’d give you the bluegrass discount, but there aren’t enough bluegrass docs out there, and I want to see my favorite people be taken care of fairly. No one is going to conquer the heath insurance quagmire overnight, but I believe Sound HeathCare is at least headed in the right direction.
Their website is: www.soundhealthcare.org