With new Obamacare options, Philly jazz singer cajoles musicians to sign up for coverage

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     Suzanne Cloud, executive director of Jazz Bridge is on a mission to get musicians to sign up for Affordable Care Act.  She shows off her new health insurance cards as she waits to be seen by her doctor at Cooper Medical Services in Cherry Hill, N.J. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Suzanne Cloud, executive director of Jazz Bridge is on a mission to get musicians to sign up for Affordable Care Act. She shows off her new health insurance cards as she waits to be seen by her doctor at Cooper Medical Services in Cherry Hill, N.J. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Suzanne Cloud is on a mission: she wants you, artists and musicians, to sign up for health insurance.

    “These are people who have really flung themselves off the cliff for the love of what they do,” says Cloud.

    Cloud, a jazz singer herself who helps musicians in crisis, worries many lack any safety net and are prone to neglect their health.

    “We’ve had musicians who’ve died because of a lack of health insurance and health care, who were young,” she says. “And if they’d had it, they’d still be playing in Philadelphia right now.”

    Cloud thinks the Affordable Care Act could save a lot of people from that kind of fate. Many are now are eligible for federal discounts on coverage. They can’t be turned away because of pre-existing conditions.

    So, she has been pestering friends to get coverage. She’s persistent. Just ask Michael Ray.

    “She said ‘please get health insurance, you got to do it,'” said Ray, a trumpeter who has played with the likes of Sun Ra and Patty LaBelle.

    His insurance policy until now? Don’t get sick.

    “If you get a toothache on the road playing trumpet, it’s like the world is coming to an end,” said Ray. “There comes a time that you just thank God you’re on this side of the dirt.”

    Ray’s own music group is the Cosmic Krewe, and he describes Cloud as “going above and beyond the call of cosmic duty.”

    At her urging, he signed up for insurance.

    But Cloud isn’t just cajoling her peers. She’s also trying to lead by example.

    She had been without insurance since 2009. And while she encountered a lot of problems with her ACA application early on last fall, she says her persistence has paid off.

    On Tuesday, Cloud went to the doctor, flashing her new insurance card at the check-in counter.

    “I’ve got insurance!” she sang to the receptionist.

    Cloud now has Medicaid as a result of New Jersey’s expansion. Unlike previous appointments, she got needed referrals this time to see specialists for her diabetes and other chronic health issues — referrals she has postponed because she was uninsured and couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket.

    “This really lifts an entire weight off my shoulders,” she said while leaving with several referrals and prescriptions in hand.

    Her next stop that day was the hospital, though not for herself. A fellow musician who recently suffered from a burst appendix needed a ride. She recently told him she wouldn’t pick him up anymore, unless he signed up for health coverage.

    He did.

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