Healthcare Headaches

It seems that even the managers in a country with a state sponsored healthcare insurance program still have to worry about unexpected increases in contributions. It’s nice to know American orchestra managers aren’t alone in that nightmare…


Arts Journal linked to two articles appearing in U.K. based newspapers yesterday about how orchestras there may have to pay much larger contributions to the National Insurance assessments (you can find the articles here and here). This news apparently comes as a surprise for many orchestra managers over there and there’s even talk that the unexpected contributions may force some orchestras to close down.

I won’t even pretend to understand how the U.K. based system of national health insurance operates, but it’s difficult to miss some of the grim parallels to how skyrocketing health care costs in this country have been causing some equally difficult problems for orchestras of all sizes.

For the majority of orchestras which concluded Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations this past season, the issue of how to control healthcare costs has been paramount. Based on the results from many of those negotiations, it seems that’s one issue which managers pushed the hardest and musicians were most willing to accept concessions.

It’s unlikely that the issue will go away anytime soon and due to the degree of variance between one state and another on how they govern health insurance, it’s unlikely that a universal solution will arrive anytime soon.

Nevertheless, healthcare is an issue which tugs at heartstrings and from a fundraising perspective, finding a large donor to create a bridge fund to help subsidize some of the immediate increases in healthcare costs (especially in mid and small budget orchestras) is worth the time to consider.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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