How Artists Will Be Affected by the Supreme Court's Decision to Uphold Obama's Affordable Care Act

How Artists Will Be Affected by the Supreme Court's Decision to Uphold Obama's Affordable Care Act
(Courtesy stock.xchng)

The stakes in U.S. Supreme Court's decision today about the Affordable Care Act were high — not least for practicing artists. Even if they’re industrious and well-educated, artists occupy a particularly precarious sector of the workforce where stable income and benefits can be hard to come by.

Thus, arts advocacy groups have been a big backer of health care reform. Narric Rome, a senior director at Americans for the Arts, takes credit for pushing the 2008 campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to include healthcare for artists in their respective issue briefs for the arts. “We had an issue brief calling for members of Congress who were working on healthcare reform to recognize the importance of the independent worker,” he told ARTINFO, “including artists and those working in the creative industry.” Today, Rome described the implementations upheld by the Supreme Court as “a very welcome solution” for those working in the creative fields.

What, exactly, can be expected now that the ACA is moving forward? Data from a report by the group Leveraging Investments in Creativity specifically lays  out how artists could be affected by the President's new health care law, based on data about creative workers and their situation. Since the Supreme Court has officially upheld the law, ARTINFO broke out a few parts that are most likely to affect the arts community:


One of the reasons that healthcare is prohibitively expensive for artists and other self-employed people is that they are not part of a larger network, which allows insurance companies to better spread out risk and costs. Even small companies sometimes don’t qualify for group plans. Some 52 percent of artists described themselves as either completely uninsured or inadequately insured in the face of high premiums, high deductibles, and annual limits on care. With the effects of the recession in the background, 31 percent of artists have described themselves as “very worried” about losing their coverage, while 19 perecent described themselves as “somewhat worried.” Unlike most other fields, artists' situation does not seem to improve with age: whereas 42 percent of artists aged 25 to 34 are inadequately insured, a similar 38 percent are inadequately insured between ages 36 and 65.

Under the ACA, states will set up group exchanges by 2014, which will organize the insurance market and allow individuals and small businesses to band together to form groups, just like if they were part of a large corporation. The exchanges will not be able to consider pre-existing conditions when creating groups — currently one of the biggest reasons why individuals or small businesses have a hard time getting affordable insurance.

Many states have put off setting up these exchanges until now, in hopes that the bill would be struck down by the Supreme Court. New York, however, is not one of those states. Governor Cuomo created an exchange by executive order in April. It should be fully operational by January 2014, and will begin accepting applications in October 2013. (See where all states stand on this issue here.)


The ACA also expanded Medicaid coverage, which insures the poor. But it’s not just those eligible for Medicaid that will be affected by this bill. Even those who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $43,320 for an individual) will be able to take advantage of federal subsidies. Help from the government will come either in the form of a premium subsidy (which limits the percentage of your income you pay for insurance), or a cost-sharing subsidy (which helps with the out-of-pocket things). According to the LIC report, some two-thirds of artists in the United States would meet this income requirement.


Not all artists work individually. The act provides subsidies for businesses with fewer than 25 full-time (or 50 part-time) employees who make less than $50,000 per year on average to purchase healthcare, which may otherwise be prohibitively expensive because the pool of people purchasing is not large enough. This would apply to the bulk of the small businesses that make up the creative industries, such as galleries, artists’ studios, and performing arts companies — and may help those those working part time at a gallery or studio with healthcare costs. The subsidies went into effect in 2010, and will increase in 2014.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the senior director of federal ffairs and arts education at Americans for the Arts as Nerric Rome.]