Despite the high profile of the nonprofit that helps provide access to affordable health care to Austin’s low-income, working musicians, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians or HAAM is struggling to keep up with the needs of the area’s 8,000 musicians, says Reenie Collins, executive director.
Collins said the 2,200 musicians the organization currently serves will likely exhaust HAAM’s $2.1 annual budget before the end of the year, with services like dental procedures and assistance with insurance premiums among the first to be depleted.
“HAAM is financially sound, but if additional funding is not provided, we will be unable to take on new members or provide additional services to existing members,” Collins said. “We are working really hard to find solutions. But at the end of the day, I don’t think people realize the depth and the breadth of the services we provide and how much that costs.”
HAAM does not operate a clinic nor is it an insurance provider, Collins explained. Rather, the nonprofit collaborates with an array of safety-net and private healthcare providers such as the St. David’s Foundation, Seton Healthcare, Central Health, Estes Audiology, the SIMS Foundation and others to provide access to general health care as well as dental, vision, hearing and mental health services. Collins said that thanks to its partnerships, it can leverage its $2.1 million budget to provide more than $8 million in healthcare.
According to the 2015 Austin Music Census report, 31 percent of Austin musicians do not have health insurance, a number significantly higher than the 19 percent uninsured rate of the general population of Austin, according the 2016 data from the U.S. Census. Of that 31 percent of musicians without health insurance, 12 percent receive assistance from HAAM.
Collins presented the status of HAAM’s budget at the July 10 meeting of the Austin Music Commission, where Gavin Garcia, chair of the commission, said it was met with gasps and disbelief. “People’s mouths dropped,” said Garcia. “Everyone thought HAAM was doing just fine.”
“The issue of affordability is more pronounced than ever,” Garcia said, “so when musicians need access to healthcare, there’s nowhere else to turn. The need for HAAM has grown exponentially more quickly than its budget can sustain.”
Collins said it comes down to a reality many healthcare nonprofits face in light of fluctuating funding sources and rising healthcare costs: The way HAAM raises money has to evolve. While high-profile, citywide events like the upcoming HAAM Benefit Day on September 12, can raise a quarter of its operating budget, they also raise awareness among musicians about HAAM’s services and add to the number waiting in line. This year’s HAAM Benefit Day goal is raise $520,000. In the meantime, major gifts from individuals and estates have not kept up.
“Our success is proving to be our biggest challenge,” said Collins. “But we are also focusing on the more traditional fundraising like applying for more grants and looking for major gifts from individuals and corporations.” She added that last year it received its first planned giving estate gift resulting in $345,000 that it applied directly to its programs. “We would love to see more of that,” Collins said.
Photo: The 2016 HAAM Benefit Day raised a quarter of HAAM’s annual operating budget, but leaders say it’s not enough. Photo by Ben Porter
NOTE: This article was co-published with the Austin American-Statseman on August 6, 2017.