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Partnership Helps Musicians Sign Up for Obamacare Plans or HAAM Memberships

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
Tiffany Theiss and Justin Marks are in the band, Justif. They relied on their HAAM membership to access low-cost medical care in Austin in 2015.

An Austin-based nonprofit that helps people sign up for health insurance is teaming up with another group that helps musicians access low-cost medical care. Foundation Communities will work with the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, or HAAM, to get more Austin musicians insured during the upcoming enrollment period for plans on the federal marketplace.

The two musicians in the local band Justif are exactly the people who Foundation Communities and HAAM hope to see starting this Sunday. Both Tiffany Theiss and Justin Marks are uninsured. Theiss says the only way they can see a doctor is through the low-cost office visits made possible by their HAAM membership.

"It is a struggle, and honestly if HAAM wasn’t here, there’s absolutely no way we could afford health insurance," Theiss says. "We make ends meet — enough to get by.  Just enough to get by."

HAAM offers low-cost services, including dental, mental health and hearing, through private donations and partnerships with hospitals and doctors, but HAAM’s executive director, Reenie Collins, wants musicians to know a HAAM membership is not health insurance.

"While we’re a great resource and we’re still there, if you can get insurance it’s going to be better for you," Collins says.

In fact musicians will need to come to Foundation Communities to get a HAAM membership for access to low cost care. Or they can find out if they qualify for federal tax subsidies to buy commercial health insurance.

"It’s a new way of enrolling in HAAM," Collins says. "In other words HAAM’s not going away, we’re just doing things differently."

HAAM helped about 300 musicians pay the premiums of Obamacare health insurance plans in 2015. For 2016, it will help about 900 musicians get plans available under the Affordable Care Act.

Foundation Communities says it’s getting lots of calls from musicians making appointments and is looking for more volunteer certified application counselors to help.

The enrollment period for 2016 plans on the federal insurance exchange runs from this Sunday, Nov. 1, through Jan. 31. 

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