There's no shortage of websites explaining the vagaries of health insurance, but the relaunch last week of a veteran site, www.ahirc.org, offers perhaps the most comprehensive online resource we've seen for anyone without insurance or in need of free or low-cost medical care.
The website, Access to Health Insurance / Resources for Care, was first launched 11 years ago as a project of the Actors' Fund of America. The fund is a social service organization that provides help to anyone affiliated with the arts -- such as unemployed movie-set catering assistants, musicians and graphic artists between gigs. The fund's services include resume and job skills training, financial assistance, crisis intervention and healthcare and health insurance assistance.
The website, accessible to anyone, is searchable by state from the home page, and includes links to primers on health insurance; tax information for medical expenses; organizations that help with drug costs and insurance co-pays; and medical centers offering many free or low-cost services, such as flu shot clinics, routine checkups, sexually transmitted disease screening, HIV resources, smoking-cessation assistance, addiction treatment and mental health counseling.
A few of the resources are specific to people in the arts, such as group associations for cartoonists, dancers and theatrical press agents that may be able to provide less-expensive individual or family health coverage.
In Los Angeles, the Actors' Fund also offers:
* "Getting and Keeping Health Insurance," a free seminar for anyone in entertainment. It's held on the first Wednesday of the month. Register at (323) 933-9244, Ext. 38.
* A free evening medical clinic, held once a month, for L.A. County residents even tangentially in the entertainment field (occasional makeup artists or hairdressers for TV shows, for example) with individual household incomes less than about $20,800; slightly higher for families. Schedule an appointment at the above number, Ext. 32. If you don't qualify, the staff will try to refer you elsewhere.