Video: Healthcare for artists

msnbc.com
updated 11/30/2005 12:24:44 PM ET 2005-11-30T17:24:44
STORY

“Its great to be valued for what you do and for what you spent your life learning how to do,” said Susan Tang.

She is one of many artists now bartering for healthcare by trading talent for medical treatment.

Tang, an illustrator and muralist, is one of 250 artists who make up Artist Access, a program at New York's Woodhull Hospital.  Members spend time each week performing for patients, or as in Tang's case, teaching them in exchange for X-rays, tests and even doctor's visits.

To program founder Dr. Edward Fishkin, “Some old fashioned things aren't out of style.”

Tang said the special program “allows you to pay for your healthcare by applying your craft whether its acting or singing or painting or whatever it is.”

Like countless freelance artists, she has no insurance and lives from job-to-job with no benefits and no safety net.

Until now, Tang has gone five years without a check-up.

These days, she earns medical care by spending a few hours each week painting with children in the hospital's pediatric ward.

“The artist community is notorious for having jobs that don't give health insurance,” said Debbie Douek who interviews artists applying the program.  “They're really excited to have that load off their back.”

Artists earn forty credits for each hour of work. Each credit is worth one dollar toward paying their medical expenses.  The artists are part of a subsidized healthcare program here, so those credits go a long way.

Doctors call it a win for the artists and the patients.

Dr. Fishkin said, “It's difficult being a patient its scary even in the best of circumstances so bringing art to the in patient and outpatient environment really is soothing and therapeutic and it helps our patients recover.”

This proves an old-fashioned idea can work for modern-day medicine.

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