Photo by Katarina Hybenova

Once you take the leap to freelance, you’re committing to a lifestyle, which has its perks, yes, but managing the cash flow can get a little tricky. The Brooklyn Arts Council hosted a health insurance primer for freelancers at the Brooklyn Public Library in Bushwick last Wednesday. For those of you who were tied to a gig, here’s a recap:

In a nutshell: As of Jan 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act will require most Americans to have health insurance, or suffer tax penalties. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage for any reason. If you’re unable to get coverage through an employer, or through an alternative organization, you’ll be able to buy it on the open market on New York State’s new health exchange website as of October 1, 2013. Single people who earn less than $46,000 per year (or $94,200 for a family of four) are eligible for subsidies. Medicaid will also be expanded for minimum wage workers. If income is variable, you can project anticipated income based off your 2013 tax returns, though if you underestimate, you could be penalized. Here are other local groups that offer information and, in some cases, low-cost coverage:

The Actor’s Fund

The Actor’s Fund is a nationwide human services group that helps professionals who work in the field of performing arts and entertainment. They have a Health Insurance Resource Center with a comprehensive website that details how the upcoming health reforms will effect freelancers and those who work in the arts. The website includes a booklet called “Every Artist Insured: Understanding Healthcare Reform,” which explains how to make the most of upcoming reforms, along with a timeline. They also offer free individual counseling in their offices and, for those who qualify, a free city health clinic. Every Thursday from 12:30-1pm at their main office (729 7th Ave.) they offer group tutorials, a seminar with slides and a Q&A where the public can learn more about upcoming healthcare reforms and hear about options for coverage.

Woodhull Medical Center’s Artist Access

Woodhull Medical Center’s Artist Access program is a health-care initiative based at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in North Brooklyn. They serve many different kinds of artists including visual, painters, muralists, actors, directors, producers, musicians, puppeteers, writers, etc. Their program offers sliding scale services to those who qualify. Artists can also exchange creative services for healthcare; for every hour worked, they get a $40 credit. Examples include actors who have helped to train physicians on how to break bad news; musicians who play in the hospital; a photographer who photographs newborns, etc. This program offers comprehensive medical services. Immigration status plays no part. For information, call the Artist Access hotline: 877-244-5600.

Freelancer’s Union

Freelancer’s Union is a nonprofit, Brooklyn-based labor organization that offers health insurance, dental, long-term disability and a 401K. It’s free to join, and there are no yearly dues. (For health insurance, you must live in New York State, though if you travel, your benefits are transferable; they use Blue Cross/Blue Shield network). At the time you submit your application for health insurance, you can’t work 35 hours a week as a W2 employee unless you work for an employment agency, or are hired for 18 months or less. Eligible industries (also very broad) include: arts, design, entertainment, media, advertising, financial services, nonprofit, technology, domestic childcare, skilled computer user, healthcare provider. You have to submit supporting documents that show that you work in an eligible industry, and that you’ve either made $10,000 in the last six months, or that you’ve worked 20 hours per week for the last 8 weeks. Individual plans range from $225 to $603. (Most plans include the Freelancer’s Medical Program, which is a free primary care clinic in downtown Brooklyn). Freelancer’s Union will also have a plan sold on the open market exchange come Oct. 1.

Other resources

Fractured Atlas Guide to Healthcare, a step-by-step guide that includes a glossary of important lingo, get a quote, and expert help.

NYC Health Insurance Link compares the benefits and costs of NYC health insurance plans.

Artist Help Network, a resource guide to different arts-related organizations that offer health insurance to their members.