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   October 19, 2015

When in doubt, ask The Actors Fund

by Kate Shindle

AEA President Nick Wyman

President Kate Shindle

Over the summer I was interviewed by Carey Purcell for a feature that appeared on Playbill’s website. It was a fairly wide-ranging conversation, and we spent a few minutes talking about the challenges and realities of making a living as an actor — including the fact that, as of July 1, 2015, I was officially without health insurance. My purpose in stating this was simply to emphasize that I’m a working actor, assembling a living like so many of our members.

A couple weeks later, I attended my first meeting since being named to the Board of Trustees at The Actors Fund, which has long been one of my favorite organizations. Basically, if you work in the entertainment industry and you need help with something, The Actors Fund should probably be your first stop. Housing seminars. Career counseling. Time management workshops. Social workers. Financial assistance. You name it. Also, the Fund’s staff does a pretty deep dive, in many different ways, into the issue of health care. And apparently, they read Playbill.

It’s possible that Joe Benincasa said hello first (he’s a pretty nice guy, for sure), but he quickly went on to tell me that I would be sitting down with one of their health insurance counselors. Busted. And he was right, by the way. In 2015, there really isn’t much of an excuse for not being insured. Approximately 16% of our members qualify for Equity League coverage at any given time, and about 11% are using it. But with the recent availability of health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, we all do have the opportunity — and the responsibility — to become more active participants in our own health care. The days of drifting into and out of coverage, rolling the dice and hoping that we don’t get a serious illness or injury, seem to be coming to a close.

This is not to say that navigating the health care system is easy; far from it. Over the course of about an hour, The Actors’ Fund’s Renata Marinaro (Director of Health Services/Eastern Region for The Artists' Health Insurance Resource Center) thoroughly schooled me in the variety of plans available in New York. Although I have not signed up for one yet — the annual open enrollment period doesn’t begin until November 1 — I am so grateful to have been walked through the process. And seriously impressed by the level of detail and assistance available not only to me, nor only to Equity actors and stage managers, but quite literally to anyone in the entertainment industry. It’s amazing to witness the actual work that gets done with all those dollars we all help raise for The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (a major supporter of The Fund). The glamour of a special performance, or the Flea Market or the Fire Island Dance Festival can seem very far away from sitting in an office learning about deductibles. But it is all part of the same picture.

Speaking of health care: If you’re in New York or Los Angeles, come on into the office when Physician Volunteers for the Arts (with a grant from BC/EFA) is scheduled to provide free flu shots! We’re all very grateful to Dr. Barry Kohn for this annual service and hope that you will take advantage of it.

That’s all for now. Happy autumn, and take care of yourselves!

Contact President Kate Shindle at


From the President Archives

President Shindle's Inaugural Column

Labor Day, Unions for Artists and the Value of Unity

When in doubt, ask The Actors Fund

On Gratitude

Unsung Heroes

Changing the World, One Benefit at a Time


On Progress

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