As the health care debate rages on Capitol Hill and in homes around the country, all kinds of Americans are sharing their stories of how they pay for their medical care. Some of the most vulnerable are self-employed individuals who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but are forced to purchase insurance in the individual market, which is often prohibitively expensive.
One group of people who often fall within this category are musicians . Even artists who’ve achieved some level of success generally can’t count on a steady income, and have great difficulty affording health insurance or the cost of medical bills. So, in many cases, they self-medicate, refusing to see a doctor until a problem is far more severe than it would have been if they’d received proper treatment in the first place.
But in New Orleans , a group of doctors and volunteer organizers realize that the local musicians have given so much to the city—so why not give something back to them?
Eleven years ago, music aficianados Bethany and Johann Bultman founded the non-profit New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, which provides free and low-cost medical care to low-income musicians in the city. “The reason we chose to target musicians in New Orleans is because they represent a pure American cultural form, jazz music,” Johann told NBC News . “Nothing else in America has its roots and origins here in such a pure, world-renowned, world-sought-after format and we didn’t want to see the music die on our watch.”
Thanks to the Clinic’s volunteer doctors, a partnership with the LSU Healthcare Network, a grant from the federal government, and various charitable donations, the non-profit is able to provide much-needed services to over 1,800 New Orleans musicians each year. Kathy Savoie, the singer for a group called The Wise Guys, credits the Clinic for helping her get back on stage after being sidelined by a severe knee injury. “I had no money to pay for a surgery and they kept me going and got me back on my feet,” she said.
In the current economic climate, money is tight for the organization, and they’ve already needed to cut back on some of their services. But with help from donors and volunteers, they’re confident that they can pull through and keep New Orleans full of music. The musicians “really need a place where they can get health care, but also where they’re valued specifically for what they do,” volunteer doctor Kiersta Kurtz-Burke said. “That’s the one thing I really love. Everyone who works at the clinic really loves New Orleans music.”
By Kathryn Hawkins for Gimundo.com , the site for good news and positive stories