By KATHLEEN BITETTI
As many of you know, the Artists Foundation has been working very hard on the Health Care Reform Law implementation. Hence my lapse in articles.
First a warning of sorts...
You may have or will be getting a postcard from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Commonwealth Health Connector telling you about the requirements of the Individual Mandate for this new law- i.e., that you need to have health insurance. The post card also directs you to a website. Also on May 22, the Commonwealth Health Connector will start a statewide media campaign to promote their websites and toll free phone numbers.
ONLY USE THESE STATE WEBSITES AND PHONE NUMBERS AS REFERENCES. DO NOT enroll or purchase plans directly from those sites or the connected phone numbers. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. These websites and phone call centers are not, at this time, processing/directing artists and the self-employed to the correct health care options that they are eligible for -- because they do not know how to figure out our income correctly. Go to Healthcareforartists.org to be directed to those organizations to help you enroll/buy insurance. The AF is working on fixing this issue and will alert everyone when it is corrected via our two websites (www.artistsfoundation.org and www.healthcareforartists.org).
SECOND ISSUE WHICH IS ALSO DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE ISSUE OF INCOME DETERMINATION.....
We need letters from Individual artists working in all disciplines and also from arts organizations and small business owners on the use of gross income versus adjusted gross income to determine if someone is exempt from having to purchase health insurance. EVEN IF YOU HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE your letter is needed (i.e. there may be a time that you don't have insurance and/or you know people who don't have it)
I asking you to write a letter/email and send it to me by May 30 - so I can make copies and distribute them to the policy makers.
Email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will edit or proofread your letter/email if you want me to.
Thank you for doing this!
Below is the information to refer to in your letter/email.
Presently, the Commonwealth Health Connector Authority (the Connector), the state agency charged with implementing the Health Care Reform Law, has issued DRAFT regulations on how the Department of Revenue is to assess if someone is exempt from the individual mandate - the mandate that requires people to purchase health insurance.
The only measure they are planning to use to assess someone's income level is GROSS income only. This is highly problematic for artists, the self-employed, and small business owners and is clearly going to negatively impact the artist community, the self employed, and small business owners. It is our adjusted gross income that should be the measure (after business exemptions line 22 on the Federal Income tax form).
In the DRAFT Regulations "Determining Affordability for the Individual Mandate (956 CMR 6.00)" it says:
Gross Income: the total money earned or unearned, such as wages, salaries, rents, pensions, or interest, received from any source without regard to deductions.
The Connector has published the following information:
Any individual with an annual GROSS income of $50,001 or more will be deemed to be able to afford health insurance.
Any couple with an annual GROSS income of $80,001 or more will be deemed to be able to afford health insurance.
Any family with an annual GROSS income of $110,001 or more will be deemed to be able to afford health insurance.
EXAMPLE LETTER/INFO to include:
WHO you need to write your letter to:
Dear Members of the Connector Board and Executive Director Kingsdale
Make sure you sign/list your full name, affiliation, title, and/or identify what kind of artists you are, and list your home town/city. If you can write it on letterhead that is also helpful - especially if your are writing from an organization or business.
SAMPLE of what to include in your email - form letters are not helpful so please put it in your words.
Dear Members of the Connector Board and Executive Director Kingsdale,
I am writing in regard to DRAFT Regulations "Determining Affordability for the Individual Mandate (956 CMR 6.00). The current definition you are using for assessing a person's income is highly problematic for artists, the self employed and small business owners (YOU can refer only to one or all of those entities listed).
Gross income, as it is defined in these regulations needs to be changed. A better and fairer definition to use is: adjusted gross income (line 22 on the federal personal Income tax form).
THEN explain why after business income deductions is the better to use rather than one's gross income -i.e., artists, self-employed, have to pay out a significant amount of their income to produce their work- studio space, materials, practice space, marketing, etc... and that these are not optional expenses.
One artist who testified at a recent public hearing on this issue stated : "if you keep this definition of gross income as the measure, you are sending a clear and loud message to the artists of Massachusetts to leave the state"
End with something along the lines of: thank you for considering this needed change for the regulations.
PLEASE PUT THE LETTER IN YOUR OWN WORDS- AS FORM LETTERS ARE NOT THAT HELPFUL.