Healthcare for writers
Check-in: I haven’t actually written yet today, but I couldn’t get to sleep last night (for some reason Love in an Elevator kept blasting in my brain) so I got up and reworked chapter 26 to 28, which didn’t need much.
After that, my eyes were feeling heavy, so to make sure they were really droopy when I went back to bed, so I’d definitely go to sleep, I scrolled through some blogs. That’s when I found this July 12 post from literary agent Colleen Lindsay’s The Swivet blog: Help Aaron Allston out with his medical bills, please!
I hadn’t heard of Aaron Allston before, but Colleen says he’s the author of the New York Times best-selling Star Wars novels. I haven’t read them, but I, of course, know the franchise well. Who doesn’t, unless they’ve been living deep in the jungle for the past 30-odd years?
Anyway, what this post reminded me is that authors are technically freelance workers, so they don’t have access to corporate health insurance programs, and many individual health insurance programs are too expensive. Also, health insurance companies can turn away individuals who don’t have a sparkly clean bill of health, making it even more difficult for freelance workers to get health insurance coverage. The Authors Guild does offer group health insurance to working writers, which Aaron Allston would fit into, but many of these group plans aren’t required to cover everyone the way a plan through a corporation is. (I don’t know what the Authors Guild plan is like; I’ve just seen thread postings saying its offered.)
I don’t know Aaron’s situation and why he didn’t have health insurance, but it brings up a consideration for any writer looking to make their dream a full-time career. With rising health costs putting financial heat on the bottom lines of many corporations and smaller companies, what will they do to the individual freelance worker?
Now, I don’t want to get on a soapbox here, but how can someone be free to pursue the American dream if they have to worry about healthcare costs?
For those of you who have not yet had a book published, put yourself in this position. Imagine that day when your books — which you’ve worked so hard to create — are finally in stores, and you’ve got maybe a few books in shelves, and your career is taking off and the deadlines are looming. (Not too difficult to imagine; I’m sure we’ve all smiled through that daydream many times already.) If your books are making enough money to pay your every day bills but health insurance is a question, will you say to your publisher, “Sorry, I can’t meet that deadline because I don’t have time what with my day-job and I can’t quit because I need the group health insurance”? If you have the opportunity to make your dream of being a full-time author a reality, would you want health insurance to shatter it?
Unfortunately, this is a reality. Considerations about health insurance are something we have to think about when we’re trying to follow our dreams. The reality is that as full-time authors, we’ll have to pay more for health insurance than if we work at a corporation, and we’ll have to pay more tax than if we work at a corporation (corporations pay part of an employee’s tax, but self-employed workers have to pay the full amount). Whether it’s meant to or not, the system punishes those who are self-employed, authors included.
Again, I’m not trying to stand on a soapbox here. This blog is about writing, not politics. But this is an issue of the business of being a writer, and we are, afterall, trying to make that happen for ourselves.
Healthcare has been a big issue the last few years and is a big issue now. I’m not telling you what to think, but I am asking you to think about it, to consider what it means to you, to consider what healthcare will mean to you and your family WHEN — not if, we’re all on the track for when here — your writing career takes off.
Because the other reality of this business is that only a small percentage of full-time working authors earn the kind of money that Stephen King and J.K. Rowling do. Most full-time authors, even New York Times best-selling authors, make enough to have a comfortable living following their dreams — what more can we wish for? — but, depending on the circumstances, healthcare might not be a part of that for various reasons, cost, health, whatever.
It’s something to think about. And if you it’s something you feel strongly about, now’s the time to voice your opinion, whatever it might be.