Hollywood Beginning to Sour on Obamacare

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 12:31 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Actors and other entertainment professionals in Hollywood are quickly finding that Obamacare will do little to help them with their health insurance.

Many in the entertainment industry are freelancers or independent contractors and do not receive healthcare coverage from an employer. They have to pay high fees and dues for union insurance, buy insurance themselves, or go without.

Under the Affordable Care Act, they will receive financial assistance from the government only if they purchase a policy on the new insurance exchange and fall below a certain income bracket, but contract workers and seasonal employee are likely to move in and out of eligibility, reports Kaiser Health News.

Several also face the health challenges associated with long hours and physically taxing work, which can result in injuries and stress-associated conditions, notes the publication.

"They try to stay employed," Bob Beitcher, CEO of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, a charity that provides healthcare service for entertainment workers, told Kaiser, adding, "Then they pray they don't have health issues when they are not employed."

Gretchen Somerfeld, who has worked mainly in commercials for 26 years, says that while she earns on average about $50,000 a year, making her ineligible for subsidies, her current insurance doubled after she started taking cholesterol medication.

"At first, I was excited about Obamacare," she told Kaiser. "Now, I think I might fall between a rock and a hard place. It is very frustrating."

Hollywood production companies are also figuring out how Obamacare will impact them once the employer mandate comes into effect in 2015. "For many of them, this is going to be a whole new world," said Mark Goldstein, senior vice president of Entertainment Partners.

Meanwhile, a private foundation in southern California is spending millions to try to get Hollywood to promote Obamacare by weaving information into plot lines.

The California Endowment has provided a $500,000 grant to help TV writers produce prime-time coverage that includes material on the Affordable Care Act, reports The Associated Press.

"We know from research that when people watch entertainment television, even if they know it's fiction, they tend to believe that the fictional stuff is actually factual," Martin Kaplan of the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, which received the grant, told the AP.

Republican strategist Jonathan Wilcox says the plan won't work.

"This is an attempt to use entertainment pop culture to fix a political challenge," he told the news agency. "It will be received as a partisan political message, no matter how cleverly it's delivered."

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