As someone who has worked in the music industry for decades as a producer, songwriter and music supervisor, Harvey Mason jr. has seen first-hand as fellow musicians struggled with the cost of health insurance. Now that he is CEO of the Recording Academy, Mason had a chance to do something about it.
That was the impetus behind the academy’s partnership with Stride Health, a health benefits platform which helps individuals find affordable health, dental, vision and life insurance. The service searches through all of the Affordable Care Act health insurance plans available, checks to see if users qualify for financial assistance, and then helps choose the right plan.
The academy’s push drove nearly 3,000 U.S.-based members and other music professionals to the Stride Health x Recording Academy onboarding page. Approximately 63% of those visitors (1,871) unlocked recommended healthcare coverage plans for them and their families by the Jan. 15 deadline for coverage starting Feb. 1.
Just 4% (or 77) of the individuals who received recommended plans enrolled directly on the site. But that figure doesn’t include individuals who couldn’t enroll on the Stride Health site because of their location (16 states and the District of Columbia don’t allow it), or individuals who opted to use Stride Health as a tool to get healthcare recommendations and then enrolled directly on the insurance providers’ sites.
“As a music person, I’ve seen and been around a lot of people that don’t have coverage and don’t even know where to start to get it,” Mason jr. says. “None of us work for big organizations or corporations. For the most part, we’re independent contractors or we’re running our own small businesses. Insurance has always been something that people around me have been unsure of and possibly struggled to get.
“I’ve been around a lot of musicians and music creators that have not gone to the doctor because they don’t have insurance. Or they have not gotten a procedure done because they couldn’t afford it. Or I’ve heard from people saying they’re saving their royalties to have a baby. These are real stories that have come across my radar in my career, so I thought it’s something we can do something about.”
According to a MusiCares “Wellness in Music” survey conducted in late 2020 and early 2021, 19% of survey respondents (people working in the music community) stated they did not have health insurance, compared with just 8% of the general population. Of those, 64% said the reason was that they couldn’t afford it.
“It was something I was very passionate about,” Mason says; “something I always wondered why we had not done. It was something we talked about at board meetings back when I was a trustee.”
The Recording Academy took the lead on this project, rather than their philanthropic partner MusiCares, because the latter organization was consumed with COVID-19 relief efforts.
Mason says the academy expects to mount this effort again next year. It got a late start in the just-closed enrollment period, but hopes to be on time in the open enrollment period which will begin Nov. 1.
Open enrollment for 2022 health coverage opened nationwide on Nov. 1, 2021. In most states, it ended on Jan. 15. In most states, enrollments completed between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 will take effect Feb. 1.
“The numbers have shown that there is a demand and a need for this,” Mason says. “[Nearly] 3,000 had questions about insurance/healthcare. Of those 3,000, 63% went through the entire program and got a recommendation for new coverage. That’s almost 2,000 people that got information about insurance that wouldn’t have had it had we not started this program.”
Stride Health, like all insurance brokerage firms, receives a commission on each person they sign up for health coverage, but the Recording Academy isn’t compensated.
“What we get [out of it] is the feeling of 2,000 music people not having to worry about their coverage and being able to do what they love to do, which is create and work in music,” says Mason, “instead of being overly concerned or stressed out about what are they going to do for their healthcare needs.”