MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now I wanted to hear from someone who represents people with a stake in this issue that you might not have considered. We are talking about musicians, or rather self-employed musicians. Now, it sounds fun - work when you want, with whom you want, travel, meet all kinds of people. But income can fluctuate wildly. And because many live paycheck to paycheck, many musicians, like other self-employed artists, have gone uninsured.
That changed with President Obama's Affordable Care Act. It allowed more people in the arts to obtain health care. St. Louis-based singer-songwriter Beth Bombara is one of them.
(SOUNDBITE OF BETH BOMBARA SONG)
BETH BOMBARA: (Singing) I don't care if you want me, I won't wait. I've been down this road already. It's too late.
MARTIN: In addition to writing music, Beth wrote a blog post about her story that caught our attention. So we called her up at her home in St. Louis, where unfortunately she's trapped in an ice storm, so - great to talk with us, right? What else you got to do right now (laughter)?
BOMBARA: Yeah, I'm literally - can't do anything else (laughter).
MARTIN: Well, thanks for talking with us. So you're a college graduate. You have a B.A. in music. But for much of your career, you've had to go without health insurance. As briefly as you can, why is that?
BOMBARA: Well, when I graduated college in 2009, you know, I had a music degree and I really wanted to be able to pursue that as a career. And doing so can be very tough to do on a financial basis, day to day. And so you have to do things like, you know, have a couple different part-time jobs or a job that's very flexible that will allow you to do gigs and to tour. And with those kinds of cobbled-together jobs, they usually don't offer benefits. No health insurance. So then you're responsible for providing that for yourself. And when I graduated, that really wasn't financially feasible.
MARTIN: Can you just give us a sense of what the cost of buying a policy on the open market would have been for you?
BOMBARA: It would have been as much as my rent payment every month.
MARTIN: And you did have health insurance through your husband for a time. But then he lost his job, so you were both without insurance. Tell me what happened after the ACA happened. Are you and your husband both able to get insurance now?
BOMBARA: Yes. Yes, we are. He's also a musician. He plays with me. It's given us the freedom to tour more, play more concerts. It's kind of accelerated what we've been able to do because we don't have to worry about how we're going to take care of our health care.
MARTIN: As you know, Congress is taking steps to repeal it - the current health care law enacted by President Obama. Now, Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan say that they want to replace it with a better law, although we don't have the specifics of that at the present moment. I just wanted to ask - what are your thoughts about that?
BOMBARA: Well, it seems like a very dangerous thing to mess with, taking something away when you don't have a workable solution to replace it with. And I really - I feel so strongly - there are so many smart, brilliant people in this country. I refuse to believe that we cannot solve this problem. Sometimes I feel like it's just a matter of maybe they don't want to solve the problem. We have the capacity as a country to figure this out, and we need to do that.
MARTIN: That was St. Louis-based singer-songwriter Beth Bombara. She was kind enough to join us from her home in St. Louis, where she is ice-bound. Beth, thanks so much.
BOMBARA: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF BETH BOMBARA SONG)
BOMBARA: (Singing) I'm a fool for this hunger, going to see how far I can go.
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