Songs for the Struggling Artist

Health Care and the Struggling Artist

American Health Care Horror Stories are all so abstract until it happens to you. Every time I heard about another failure of American health care, I was horrified anew – but because I was healthy, it was like reading about an atrocity on another continent – terrible but distant. I spent most of my 20s and 30s so healthy that I went without health insurance for the better part of both of those decades and got away with it. A couple of ankle turns and an X-ray or two and I got away with spending a whole mess of a lot less than I would have if I’d been paying for health insurance. Like, a LOT. When you’re a struggling artist, gambles like this make sense for a while. (If you’re lucky.)

But, luckily, the ACA happened before I got unlucky and it was finally possible for me to afford insurance. Through the NY Health Exchange in the last few years, I have been insured through three different insurance companies as well as the expanded Medicaid program. I am a direct beneficiary of Obamacare. And I am grateful. And, for the first time in my life, I really need the insurance as I started dealing with my first real health crisis. What’s funny about having insurance after not having it for so long is how shockingly unjust it can be. When you are without, you think – ah, well, if I had insurance, it would be better. Ah ha ha ha!! Not so fast!

I have been stunned to see how little of my healthcare has been paid for. When I learned that the one medicine that halts my migraines was denied by my health insurance company as “not medically necessary,” I was shocked. And I was shocked again to learn that if I bought it myself, it would cost me $600. For NINE doses. The drug company offers coupons for it but because my insurance is tied to Medicaid, I am not eligible. In other words, because I don’t make much money, I am not eligible to save money and my access to a truly beneficial medicine was denied. At every stage of this process, I was surprised anew at the madness. But my situation is not unique. So many Americans face obstacles of this kind (and usually much much much worse) that these stories are the norm. We become immune to each others’ health woes because they are so normal.

The ACA isn’t great. But it’s better than the nothing I had before. And with health insurance companies in the mix. I don’t know how it could ever be better. Obviously, Universal Health Care is the much better option but it is not yet an option in these baffling United States. My state keeps passing a Single Payer bill in the State Assembly but every year it gets rejected by the more conservative Senate. Fingers crossed for this year. (Call your Senator, New Yorkers!)

Being sick in America is incredibly expensive. The majority of bankruptcies are health care related. It’s ridiculous of course. But denying coverage for 23 to 24 million people is not the answer. Returning to the Wild West with denials for pre-existing conditions, like being a woman, for example, is not the way. My most recent insurance company was terrible. But it was better than having no insurance at all. If I were un-insured I could not have even seen the doctor who gave me the samples of the medicine that works. My insurance meant I only had to pay $330 for the hour with my doctor instead of $550. It’s still terrible. But not AS terrible with insurance. And luckily, I was already in the process of switching insurance companies when this craziness with my medicine went down and not only did my new insurance company approve my prescription on the first day of my coverage, my amazing pharmacist brought the medicine to me because we live in the same neighborhood. There are extraordinary heroes in this very flawed system.

As for those who would deny coverage to those who are suffering, I found myself fantasizing about giving them that Virtual Reality migraine simulation headset, of which my friend sent me a video. It appears to give a replication of the visual migraine experience (minus the pain.) In the video, you see people quickly requesting the removal of the headset. But in my fantasy, when the health care deniers ask to take it off, I refuse, because it is not strictly medically necessary. In real life, I know I would cave pretty quickly but in my fantasy, I get them to sign approvals for all migraine relief meds for everyone before I let them take that thing off.


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Location, location, location
September 30, 2008, 12:08 am
Filed under: art, dreams, Entries with songs attached, music | Tags: , , , ,

“Turns out, it’s not where, but who you’re with that really matters, that really matters.” – Dave Matthews Band, The Best of What\’s Around

I’ve quoted this line to myself so many times in my life, it’s a little bit ridiculous. It’s a lesson that I apparently need to learn over and over and over and over again. I have gone on multiple searches for the perfect place, the perfect city, the perfect community. I drove up and down the East Coast looking for a place to move my theatre company in 2002. I interviewed cities as if they were candidates for marriage before ending up back in New York. Years before that, I went searching for a theatre town I could settle down in and make my home. I tried out Atlanta, DC, San Francisco and Chicago, looking for the perfect spot. Then I moved to New York on a whim, because I was in the mood and because most of my friends seemed to be there. “Turns out: It’s not where but who you’re with that really matters.”

Then I left NY to go get my MFA in California and found my way to London, where for the first time, I thought, “This is it. This is my community. This is the place.” Everything I did after that was an attempt to get back there to this perfect location for my art. The reasons were many. Some were logical, some not. Some were illusions, some truths. And I found myself there last year fully intending to put down roots and stay for the rest of my life. I thought I had found the perfect location. Immigration law thought otherwise and so six months later, I was back in New York. I was, however, just as determined to get back to this place I had been searching for all of my life. I put all my efforts into the scheme to return. And return I did, this summer (with a show in the Edinburgh Fringe to facilitate my re-entry) and spent many weeks afterwards searching for ways to survive on the restrictions of a tourist visa. In brief, I’ve been fighting for this location for well over a year. Maybe two years, actually. And I’ve surrendered.

This hasn’t been easy. I am deeply attached to place. I think of cities like lovers and leaving them feels like breaking up. In my dreams, if I remember nothing else, I am likely to recall a sense of place: the shape, the architecture, the feel of a place. Location has been everything to me, just as it is everything in Real Estate. To be in the right location, I have sacrificed space, amenities, and so much more. But when there comes a point where the sacrifices outnumber the benefits so extremely, it’s time to shift. And it turns out, it’s not where, but who you’re with that really matters.

I’m back in New York now (bruised and battle-scarred from my attempts to stay in London) and I have so many extraordinary people here welcoming me back, offering up the best of themselves, displaying incredible generosity and compassion. In the face of that, it is hard to really bemoan my location (especially since this particular location has a lot to recommend it all on its own.) I also left lovely generous people behind in London, which is what makes leaving the most difficult. The new friends, the ones who would be close if there was time, the old ones, the ones like family. . . it hurts to leave them. “Turns out. . .” But these friends here, these OLD friends, the ones I’ve been through fire with, they are the balm, the reflection, the encouragement and the hope of THIS location. It has been these friends that I created with in the past. It was these friends who’ve seen me through all the phases of my art thus far. It is these friends who ask after some dusty corner of my art and wonder how it is. It is these friends who have seen me through all these locations thus far.

“Turns out, it’s not where but who you’re with that really matters. . .”

To that end, here’s a song about a shift in how I think about my relationships with people in general, learning how to accept help like this, etc.  Interdependent

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