When I turned 30, even though it was going to be expensive, I felt I ought to purchase health insurance. Having heard horror stories from older colleagues about scenarios in which they had found themselves, it seemed to be the right thing to do. I could only hope it was the biggest chunk of money I would ever “throw away.”
Fifteen months after I had made that decision, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The biggest chunk of money that I ever threw away turned into the best financial investment I’ve ever made.
Over the years, I watched as my health care premiums kept doubling. Even after joining letter-writing campaigns in protest, nothing happened. Five years after purchasing health insurance through a group plan, my monthly bill exceeded my rent.
As a musician, financially managing this chronic illness took over my career. I couldn’t go on the road because I couldn’t miss the teaching work that paid my insurance. I didn’t have time to work on the administrative aspects of my career, because teaching as much as possible was exhausting, and the jazz gigs were not paying the bills. Then there was the disease itself: constant fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and vision problems for starters.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was an answer to these concerns. While I was gainfully employed at Berklee College of Music by the time the ACA began, doing some research confirmed what I had suspected would happen: the exorbitant rates I was paying had been drastically reduced. It’s simple math, really: if more people are paying for insurance, costs drop.
For those who criticize the ACA, the back-and-forth game that is getting your insurance to cover your health care costs needs to be addressed. Even with insurance one has to stay on top of the staff at the doctor’s office, who file your claim incorrectly, insist your insurance won’t cover a procedure when it clearly states it will, or have you fill out reimbursement forms when dealing with out-of-network physicians. It’s practically a full-time job requiring thick skin.
But at least the ACA is there…for now. It would be catastrophic if this new government abolished the ACA with no replacement strategy. The damage will be felt for years as our population gets sicker and again starts using the Emergency Room for basic health care.
It also begs the question: if an artist is dealing with medical issues but can not get the support s/he needs, does this mean that one is forced to choose between one’s health and one’s art? For a long time, this is what I had to do.
Grammy-nominated guitarist/composer Amanda Monaco has performed at venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Jazz Standard and Flushing Town Hall, and with artists such as Milt Hinton, Matt Wilson, Rufus Reid, and the Mingus Orchestra. She has released five albums to date and her current jazz projects include her eclectic quartet Deathblow, rambunctious organ trio Kiss the Leslie and chamber jazz trio Mo-Fi-Co. Her New Music ensemble The Pirkei Avot Project performs her original music with lyrics from selected verses (from a collection of rabbinical teachings with the same name) compiled in the third century C.E.