Affording Affordable Care

… and Other Health Care Conundrums for Small and Mid-Sized Dance Companies

By Andrea Lodico Welshons

Broken toe. Stress fracture. Ruptured Achilles tendon. Those are a sampling of the injuries that KEIGWIN + COMPANY dancers have recently suffered. As executive director of K+C, I’ve observed firsthand how dancers, like professional athletes, can risk their livelihoods with injury, while illness can sideline them for performances and rehearsals.

However, many dance organizations have long been unable to afford health insurance for dancers, even though they are the tools through which we fulfill the missions of our companies. For a fairly grim snapshot of a segment of the industry, Dance/NYC’s Dance Workforce Census: Earnings Among Individuals, Ages 21-35, published in 2012, indicated that only slightly more than half of full-time workers surveyed had health insurance, while only 3.6 percent of part-time workers (which so many dancers are) received health coverage from their employers. The Affordable Care Act and its subsidies to small businesses provide an opportunity for dance companies to invest resources in their employees’ health care, many for the very first time. Great! But, wait … what options are available? What can we afford? Is my organization required by law to provide insurance? What if my company can’t afford insurance?? What are the deadlines???

With both the individual and small business enrollment deadlines for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace rapidly approaching (February 28), the answers to these questions are even more urgent. With the glut of information out there about the new law, managers of dance organizations, small companies in particular, are attempting to add health care expert to the ever growing list of roles we play – fundraiser, social media maven, board member wrangler, planner of events large and small, buyer of printer toner, invitation stuffer, and more. The thought of immersing oneself into the ACA and minutiae of insurance options is overwhelming. However, along with Dance/USA’s helpful web page with all things ACA-related, its annual Dance Forum in January gathered health industry professionals together to help us, as a community, begin to wade through the muck and confusion of ACA. The Dance Forum speakers, including Sarah Dash, helped bring clarity to some of the law’s nuances and how, as small businesses, we might take advantage of tax subsidies to make the very important investment in dancer health care. (Dance Forum presentations can be found in their entirety here.)

Following the Dance Forum, many of us continued the discussion around ACA that afternoon at Gibney Dance Center at Dance/USA’s Managers Council for Organizations with Budgets $749K and below. As Council Chair, I was interested to gather feedback from the group, especially because, due to budget size, we are the group likely to lack the capacity to provide health insurance. The ACA is enabling many organizations to offer a level of coverage not previously possible, however a large of number of small and growing dance companies, KEIGWIN + COMPANY included, still cannot afford to provide health insurance to our dancers even with the new tax subsidies. As the group discussed the forum, the conversation evolved to one not just about the Affordable Care Act, the marketplace, and subsidies, but also, and perhaps more importantly, about healthy dancers. How do we, as small organizations that may not be able to afford health coverage, better support our dancers’ health, whose bodies are essential to their ability to create work, perform, and engage audiences and thus, our ability to advance our missions? What resources and shared experiences can be explored as a community to help ensure the health of our dancers?How do we, as small organizations that may not be able to afford health coverage, better support our dancers’ health, whose bodies are essential to their ability to create work, perform, and engage audiences and thus, our ability to advance our missions? What resources and shared
experiences can be explored as a community to help ensure the health of our dancers?

First, even with the constraints of a small budget, it is important to gain knowledge about ACA and the tax subsidies offered. Upon research, you might learn that your organization may actually be able to afford healthcare that was previously cost prohibitive. The speakers at the Dance Forum outlined essential details on ACA, however, as we all know, the non-profit dance industry is unique and we can benefit from dance-specific resources and hearing how others have attacked the issue.

Perhaps Dance/USA can enhance its already-informative section on the web site about ACA with case studies and testimonials of organizations that have purchased plans through the SHOP so we can learn from others’ successes and stumbles.

Dance/USA’s council listserves can be a fantastic source for advice and guidance from others in the community. Let’s use Dance/USA’s council listserves to ask questions of our peers who have successfully shopped through the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program).

And for a helpful list of important ACA dates and details, national health insurance expert Sarah Dash has compiled this list for the dance field.  And, Dance Magazine recently published an article that outlines how the Affordable Care Act will impact the dance community.

One question remains: What if your organization still can’t afford health care? Of course, building capacity to one day afford health insurance for staff and dancers is paramount to so many of us, but as a manager of a small organization, I think one of the best actions we can take in the absence of providing health coverage, is to become well-informed on the current resources available (see above) and pass that knowledge along to our dancers, staff, and one another, and perhaps get creative in establishing partnerships to offer new ways to support dancers’ health.

  • Remind your dancers and employees that they MUST have health insurance in 2014 or they risk being fined by the IRS. In future years, the penalties to individuals for not having health insurance will only increase.  Visit www.healthcare.gov.
  • Actor’s Fund. The Actors Fund is a wellspring of information about health care. Is your organization New York or California-based? Call up the Actors Fund to arrange a meeting with a representative during which they can break down the plethora of options available to your dancers as individuals; provide information on free and affordable local clinics like the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic; and more.
  • Dance/USA Taskforce on Dancers’ Health. The Dance/USA Taskforce on Dancers Health is composed of medical professionals who work directly with professional dance companies and professional dancers across the USA and Canada. In addition to their preventive screenings and other activities, the Taskforce keeps a list of Information Papers as a resource for dancers and dance administrators.
  • Partnerships with Physical Therapy Schools. Forge a relationship with physical therapy schools in which dance companies offer the chance for students to learn by working with professional dancers in exchange for free or low-cost therapy.
  • Partnerships with Bodywork/Pilates/Yoga Certification Programs. Work with our yogi peers! Many certification programs require a specified number of teaching hours for graduation and recently certified instructors are often desperately seeking opportunities to gain teaching experience, while dancers can benefit from consistent classwork and practice. An added bonus: Many dancers work and train in Pilates and yoga and may be willing to help arrange mutually beneficial partnerships.
  • Shared Company Classes. Company class can keep dancers at the top of their game, while reducing the possibility of injury, but it can be expensive for organizations to run a class consistently. K+C recently partnered with Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion for shared company classes and both groups were inspired by the collaboration. Studio rental and teacher fees were split down the middle and our dancers had the opportunity to dance alongside their peers.

As we explore the Affordable Care Act and consider a diversity of ways to better support our dancers’ health, let’s keep talking and working with each other, while I hope Dance/USA and other service organizations continue to provide a platform to share experiences and information. I look forward to learning from all of you and hearing how others tackle this vital, but complicated issue – from the marketplace to the doctor’s office to the studio.

Andrea Lodico WelshonsAndrea Lodico Welshons is the executive director of KEIGWIN + COMPANY, having joined the company in 2008 as its first full-time administrative staff member. Since the start of her tenure, Andrea has coordinated the company’s first strategic planning process; expanded fundraising efforts; and oversaw the company’s 10th Anniversary Season, for which she secured major capacity-building support from Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She has been featured on several panels to discuss online audience engagement, dance marketing, and branding. Andrea was first introduced to dance administration in 2003 with an internship at the Paul Taylor Dance Company. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Connecticut College in 2004, where she danced with choreographers including Dan Wagoner, David Dorfman, Jeremy Nelson, and Heidi Henderson. Prior to joining K+C, Andrea worked in development at New York City Center, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and City Parks Foundation. She is currently the council chair for Dance/USA’s Managers’ Council for Organizations with Budgets $749K and below.

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