Health Insurance Feature: Health-care Blues

Photo of musician Ernest Papay

“Health-care Blues: Thirty-three percent of U.S. musicians are uninsured, nearly twice the national average”

Pittsburgh City Paper

Photo of musician Ernest Papay
Finding affordable health insurance can be a struggle for freelance musicians like Ernest Papay. Photo: Renee Rosensteel

Purpose + Audience

This story began in a Science Writing workshop at Carnegie Mellon University, a graduate course on writing about technical information and complex topics for a general audience. As music editor for Pittsburgh City Paper, I knew many musicians struggled to obtain adequate health insurance. I hoped to learn why musicians were nearly twice as likely to be uninsured than the national average and to provide much-needed resources on insurance options and assistance.


To write the story, I analyzed surveys and reports by nonprofit advocacy groups, conveyed complex technical data in an easy-to-read style and positioned my findings in relation to the music industry’s unions and performing rights organizations. I drew upon relationships to create a compelling narrative frame for the business realities of freelance, entrepreneurial performers: the stories of father-and-son musicians in the Pittsburgh community.


The revised feature appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper’s 2012 Health Issue. City Paper, an alternative newsweekly, reaches 326,995 readers and is the second most-read publication in the region.


Artists — musicians in particular — are not well served by the insurance system, according to Emily Gray, a program director at Fractured Atlas. The national non-profit is dedicated to supporting independent artists and small arts organizations through financial and educational programs.

“Depending on the constituency you talk to,” says Gray, “there’s a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude.” And while filmmakers may receive training in obtaining permits and insurance, she says, formal instruction for musicians may overlook these practical considerations. Touring musicians, especially, face problems with accessing in-network care while on the road.

Full Text

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