Tune in Tune Up

tuneintuneupUPHealthcare for musicians

One of the side effects of health care reform is that it’s likely to allow more competition in the plans offered. It makes side-by-side comparisons possible, and allows appeals to the end consumer, rather than focusing on brokered employer arrangements. Right now, RI has three providers of health insurance – Blue Cross Blue Shield, which has most of the market, United Healthcare, and Neighborhood Health Plan. Tufts Healthcare services some companies in RI, and is “investigating” entering the individual insurance market in RI. Large employers also are beginning to offer their own internal exchanges for their employees – a trend Blue Cross’ Stacy Paterno expects to grow.

Into that mix are alternative programs that help you stay on top of your health, like the RI Music Hall of Fame’s Tune In, Tune Up. Launched a year ago, the program is, “Dedicated to helping people in the music industry – musicians, stage hands, sound people, roadies – all aspects of the business. It’s a health awareness program,” says Russell Gusetti, co-founder of the program with Don Culp.
“Musicians aren’t known for taking care of themselves,” admits Gusetti, citing the late nights. “And if you’re on the road, it’s mostly fast food that’s available.” Not to mention the number of musicians who get paid, in part or in whole, in liquor.
TITU has a close partnership with “Access Basic Care,” (fb.com/AccessBasicCareInitiative) a program started in advance of the ACA by RI’s Dr. Zaheer Shah to address many of the same issues, providing basic primary care and lab exams for the uninsured at a membership cost of $45/month. The program has enabled musicians like Doug James, who hadn’t seen a doctor in 17 years, to get some much needed health care.
“We weren’t trying to work outside the system, except where the system’s broken. It’s so common, among musicians, to be asked to play a benefit for some one of our peers who’s ill and uninsured,” says Gusetti, mentioning Brown Bird as a recent example. “There was a really clear need there.”
It’s not clear yet what impact the ACA will have on the Access Basic Care program, but Tune In, Tune Up, sees a great opportunity to expand their supportive role, as “health care interpreters.” Says Gusetti, “If you really don’t make enough money, well, it’s free now. There’s no longer a no-win situation.” Sometimes, that sort of information is a lot easier to hear from a fellow musician than from a health insurance professional. “Musicians have a community – and there’s a lot more credibility when you can learn about these options from others who you know are in the same boat.”
The response has been better than expected – more than 350 musicians have signed up for TITU (it’s free to professionals), and fundraisers like their recent Unity concerts, a co-benefit for recently deceased sound technician Chris “Pop” Popoloski , and a benefit night by Roomful of Blues have all exceeded expectations.
“We’re forming partnerships with gyms, yoga studios, nutritional advisors – all sorts of specialties that can help keep our members healthy, not just within the healthcare system, but overall. It’s exciting. Who would have thought that if you had a health question, you could ask a musician?” says Gusetti. Their theme song? “Lean on me.”

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