Even as many New Yorkers face increasing financial uncertainty, an HHC hospital in Brooklyn is easing some of the pressure by helping uninsured artists pay for their healthcare by doing what they love most -- making art.
As part of Woodhull Hospital's Artist Access program, Rebekah Greene, a bassist and her husband Terry, a trombonist, are among 400 individuals who are earning healthcare credits by applying their artistic skills to a variety of tasks, from performing music in the lobby, to acting as surrogate patients teaching residents how to break bad news.
"We are very involved in the Woodhull hospital community and perform several times a month. Not only do we receive quality care and health guidance, but we also bring cultural education to people who may seldom have the opportunity to see a live performance, and that's very gratifying."
Back in 2005, Dr. Edward Fishkin, Medical Director at Woodhull Hospital in Bushwick, struck up a conversation with a pregnant women -- an artist -- in a local restaurant. He learned that she was not receiving prenatal care because she had no health insurance and was not aware she could receive care at nearby Woodhull, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. She was equally unfamiliar with the comprehensive services available there.
Dr. Fishkin soon realized there was an opportunity to connect the diverse community of musicians, performers, painters and others artists to quality and affordable healthcare. After a meeting with several artists' service organizations, Woodhull's Artist Access program was born.
Artist Access was modeled after HHC Options, the public hospital system's financial assistance program that offers a sliding fee scale to help uninsured New Yorkers pay for their care, with doctor visits starting at $15. The program was tweaked to allow individuals to provide a service in exchange for credits. One hour of service merits $40 worth of healthcare, the minimum hourly rate set by the actor's union.
Word of the program spread throughout Brooklyn's artistic community via a series of Town Hall style meetings and was met with amazement, shock and relief.
"This is a win-win situation for the hospital, our community and the 400 artists we serve," said Dr. Fishkin. "In these tough economic times when many more people are uninsured, programs like this are invaluable."
Artists who are interested in joining the HHC Artist Access program at Woodhull, should call 877-244-5600.