Wisdom. Wealth. Health. You’re wiser just for being a VOBoss listener, and you’re working on the wealth part, but what about your health? Your business can’t be healthy if you aren’t! Voice actors are not immune to the healthcare crisis plaguing America. Today’s episode deals with meeting and navigating the healthcare needs of entrepreneurs. Plus, we encourage you to help aid the healthcare fight of one of our own.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode
Listen to our previous episode on Chronic Illness for more insights into today’s discussion.
Healthcare for freelancers is very different than what is offered by traditional employment means.
Too many entrepreneurs look at their current health and user it as an excuse to push-off dealing with healthcare.
Far too many self-employed people are one major health issue away from serious financial problems.
It’s scary and many people to bury their heads in the sand and NOT deal with it.
It’s a struggle for young, healthy people to navigate the healthcare system.
Even with insurance coverage, healthcare is still very expensive and difficult to understand.
As an industry, we are aging and healthcare concerns are everywhere in the acting arts.
In recent years many crowd-sourced funds have been created for voiceover actors and their families with major health battles.
Thankfully we are a generous industry and willing to help where we can.
Paul Strikwerda’s blog addresses his own concerns with self-employed healthcare and his recent stroke.
Ideally, someone in your household will retain traditional employment that offers healthcare coverage for you as well.
Healthcare costs can be negotiated, paid-off over time, financed for low-interest rates, and in some cases reduced.
It is illegal for a Healthcare company to negatively report you to the credit bureaus as long as you are making steady efforts to repay the debt.
Sometimes a cash-pay price will cost you less than the insurance costs – always ask.
Look into your options for a small group healthcare policy as a small business owner.
Celia Siegal is battling cancer for the second time – we urge you to help her and her family.
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
Our previous Episode on Chronic Illness
Paul Strikwerda – 4 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Got Into Voice-Overs
Please help support Celia Siegal
Recorded on ipDTL
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Anne: Hey everybody, welcome to the VO BOSS broadcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my bosstie-bestie, Gabby Nistico.
Anne: Hey Gabby.
Anne: A while ago we did a very popular podcast episode on chronic illness.
Gabby: People had like really strong reactions to that episode! I mean we got all kinds of emails, and like we had –
Gabby: – people coming up to us about that. It was a powerful thing. And I mean, look, I get it, we don’t, right, as an industry, we don’t talk about this kind of stuff, because who wants to do that? Hey, you don’t air out your junk.
Anne: Well, I’ve been to the doctor numerous times [laughs] since then. A couple of things have changed with my health care, and I thought it might be a good idea to readdress this issue, but take a look at a different vantage point of health care for entrepreneurs and independent freelancers, because it can be quite a bit different than health care that you might have come to know and love [laughs]
Anne: – while working in the company.
Gabby: It’s really gotten kind of crazy. There’s so much political noise about health care right now obviously. I mean, I just kind of went through a shakeup with mine as well because James’ company that he was working for, he left, and along with that departure went our current health insurance.
Anne: Well, my husband got a new job, and I had to – I’m still under his, but it’s a different policy. And health care [laughs]
Gabby: Oh my Lord.
Anne: – is not the same today as it was five, six years ago. And even then it wasn’t, it was something that we had to deal with.
Gabby: When you and I spoke about this yesterday actually in kind of prepping for this episode, I think the thing that really sticks out for me the most right now is how many entrepreneurs and people, who are at the start of a major entrepreneurial venture, go “I’m healthy. I’m fine. I don’t need to worry about that right now. It’s ok.”
Anne: “I’ll take that $10,000 deductible, please.”
Gabby: “It’s fine, it’s fine.”
Anne: “I don’t want to contribute.”
Gabby: And I’m like, I just want to grab them and like go, “what are you doing? What is wrong with you? Because you can’t, you can’t.”
Anne: Well, I’d love to think that I’m invincible, but.
Gabby: The reality for most Americans, and I think also for most entrepreneurs, is that we’re one major health crisis away from bankruptcy, financial ruin –
Gabby: – having to shut the doors.
Anne: Isn’t that the truth?
Gabby: Really catastrophic things.
Anne: And it’s scary.
Anne: It’s scary.
Gabby: Yeah, it iss, and I think it’s so scary we want to bury our heads in the sand and go, “this isn’t happening. I’ll be OK.”
Anne: I’ll tell you, and I think we discussed this when I got sick in 2000 – actually end of 2011 when I was diagnosed, I was like “no, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. No. I’m not sick. I’m not sick. No.”
Gabby: [beep] I’m fine.
Anne: And then fast-forward to doctors’ visits, surgical procedures, hospital stays, I mean, medication, treatments, oh my goodness. And I know you yourself have also gone through that.
Anne: What a mess, not only, Gabby, is it important to have health insurance, when you have the health insurance that you do, whether it be an independent policy or something through maybe your spouse or a significant other, you have to be so on top of it to make sure that you’re able to afford and not go into catastrophic debt. It’s incredible.
Gabby: To put it into perspective, in my last 30 days of dealing with insurance and with specialty medications, right –
Anne: Oh yeah.
Gabby: This is not something you can just go to Walgreens and pick up. Right? We’re talking about what meds that –
Anne: Not aspirin.
Gabby: No. These are delivered to my door in like these crazy cooler packs.
Anne: And you know what, Gabby, the thing that is a little more frightening about it too is that we’re young, so to speak.
Gabby: Oh yeah. For sure, for sure.
Anne: Right? We can read the fine print and we know enough to stand up and make sure that things are being submitted properly and that we’re going to get our coverage that we deserve. I can’t imagine – I always said, I cannot imagine someone going through a health crisis at an older age that may not be capable of advocating for themselves.
Gabby: Oh yeah, I’ve said that I don’t know how many times in the last month. I have actually said that to people at my insurance company. I’m like, “I don’t understand how somebody twice my age would cope with this right now because this is nuts.”
Anne: I think they don’t, and that’s part of the problem. Right?
Gabby: At one point, I was on the phone with my insurance company. This was to get my co-pay information, right? This is with insurance, guys. All they could tell me was “according to what we have here, your medication is either going to cost – either – $240 a month or $17,000.”
Anne: Wow. That’s crazy.
Gabby: [laughs] And it was said with such a straight face, I just, I was like “wait, you’re joking, right? You can’t, you can’t be serious.” Yeah, $17,000. And I’m like, “so, when exactly will we know which one it is? Because That’s a pretty a difference.”
Anne: Uh, yeah. [laughs]
Gabby: I need to know if I need to sell my husband like now.
Gabby: I mean come on.
Anne: Well at some point, there just has to be – I think, I think first off we must stress the point that [laughs] everybody out there who is an entrepreneur –
Anne: – must, you must really, really have some sort of policy –
Anne: – to help you, should a health care crisis arise. It can happen. And what you don’t want to have happen is, you know, catastrophic.
Gabby: And we’re also seeing right now as an industry, right, we’re getting older.
Gabby: And we’re seeing people that we’ve known for many, many years and people who we’ve idolized and looked up to really, really struggling with health issues and with problems that are causing huge financial strain for them and their families. I mean, on one hand you go, “yeah, we’re successful industry and we do really well for ourselves,” but then again that entrepreneurial piece, you realize how many different Gofundmes have had to be created –
Anne: Oh my gosh, yeah. Absolutely.
Gabby: – in the last number of years to help out a fellow voice actor –
Anne: But thankfully it’s there, right, to help out.
Gabby: Yeah, yeah, and I mean, we’re pretty good about that.
Anne: Yeah. I’m going to say Paul Strikwerda actually just wrote an excellent blog article, the four things you wish, “Four Things I wish I’d Known when I started.” And the very last point of his was, you know, guys, you only have one you, and it’s so important for us to take care of ourselves, take care of our health, because something could happen catastrophic which did to him, which you know –
Gabby: I was just going to say –
Anne: Oh my goodness.
Gabby: Paul, his situation, my God, Paul almost died in his booth.
Anne: In his booth.
Gabby: He suffered a massive stroke, and literally his booth became a prison. Mind-boggling to me. Freaks me out to no end.
Anne: Absolutely. So we have to realize that things like that can happen. And we have to take steps to get coverage somehow. How are we going to do this, Gabby?
Gabby: Let’s talk about this. So I think, I think one thing that you want to be, well, cautious of, careful of, at least consider is that if you are the primary entrepreneur in the household, that someone else in the household is still working traditionally and is being supplied insurance that both of you qualify for through an employer.
Anne: Yes, I think that is your best bet. And actually I remember telling my husband, [laughs] “I don’t care what you make. I just need that health care.” Right?
Anne: For us strategy wise, that’s what worked out for me and pretty much saved my butt, you know, five years ago. But I will say that, you know, the type of coverage too also has a lot to do with it because I still had to pay out of pocket quite a bit.
Gabby: There’s always going to be a lot of out-of-pocket, but I mean again, we’re talking about the difference between out-of-pocket that you can finance, defer –
Gabby: – pay off over time versus the stuff that is literally going to be the choice between either I pay this bill or I die.
Anne: And one tip that someone mentioned to me, and I’m sure you know this, Gabby, was, if you have a bill that comes in, you can always call [laughs] and either get financing or explain to them that you may or may not be able to pay that bill. And it, usually on the phone, they will give you a discount. I did not know that. I tried it a couple of times and boom, I called up my provider, and I said “I cannot afford to pay this right now.” And they said, “well, if you put it on a credit card, we’ll take off 15%, whatever it was.” Very interesting that that works that way.
Gabby: Well, yeah, there’s even some crazier stuff to that. There are two different price tags on a doctor visit, on a procedure, on anything medical. Price number one is the insurance price. Price number two is the cash pay. Sometimes, depending on what it is, you are better off going with the cash pay breaks.
Anne: Exactly. Because you can write that off later.
Gabby: Well, yeah. I mean, you can write off either, but –
Anne: Yeah. Oh true, excuse me.
Gabby: But the savings, the initial savings, might be much larger.
Gabby: Every major health care provider network, doctor network, they, yes, they have some kind of financing. It is typically low or no interest. And I believe, I believe that this is still accurate. There is something in – it was a congressional ruling, a health care company can not report you as delinquent to the credit bureaus as long as you are making payments. Doesn’t have to be the agreed upon payment, just any payment.
Anne: I’ve heard of that. I think that’s credit card payment as well, right?
Gabby: Anything. You could pay them a dollar a month, and as long as you’re paying something, they can’t report you.
Anne: Gosh, it’s not, you know, I just know a few people, survivors, that are still paying for, you know, their treatments, and you know, years and years later.
Gabby: Oh God, yes.
Anne: Literally. It’s just the sad state of affairs, and outside of us getting into this political discussion about why that is, and how it shouldn’t be, it just is. And so until things change, and we live here, and we do have to, we do have to try to protect ourselves as much as we possibly can.
Gabby: Or we can all go knock on Ted McAleer’s door and move to Spain.
Anne: There you go.
Gabby: Because –
Anne: Ted, we’re coming, we’re coming for you.
Gabby: Ted, Ted, I love you, man. Ted, I saw – actually I saw the post. Ted had posted something about his mom coming to visit him, and you know, I saw that, and I, oh God, I was yelling at social media, and not because I disagreed with him, but because I completely agree with everything he was saying. And you know obviously Spain is a country with socialized medicine. And Spain’s got a pretty good system, I’m just saying.
Anne: Oh yeah. There’s really something to be said for that. And his mother has some amazing artwork on her body, by the way. [laughs]
Gabby: Doesn’t she? I was like right on, mama.
Anne: She looks great, by the way.
Gabby: Look at you! You can’t see it, but I’m throwing up the devil horns for you, Mama McAleer.
Anne: Mama McAleer.
Anne: So Gabby, what is the first step? What do we do?
Gabby: So I mean, obviously you have to research your options. So again, if you have someone in the household with traditional employment, and you can take advantage of a good health care policy that way, do it. Don’t even question –
Anne: Yeah, don’t question that. That’s exactly the way to go.
Gabby: The second option, the option that I think a lot of solopreneurs miss the boat on, many of us go right to the marketplace, and you know, get a policy quote and do an individual policy.
Gabby: That is your last resort. That is actually the last option when all else has failed. And the reason is, is because of the following. As long as you are a business, a licensed business, an LLC Corporation, S Corp., whatever classification you have, that means that you qualify for group insurance. You simply have to seek out a provider that is accustomed to working with small business owners who can present you with options, and typically by doing that, you’re going to buy in to a group policy, a smaller group policy that is going to get you better coverage. Now it’s not necessarily going to be cheaper.
Anne: Right, but it’ll get you better coverage.
Gabby: Better coverage.
Anne: And coverage for your family.
Gabby: Here’s the key to this.
Anne: Exactly, brilliant.
Gabby: Your company pays for it. Yes, you, a portion of it is taken out of your salary, just the same as it would be if you worked for someone else, but your company makes a contribution as well. By doing this, it’s also a big tax write-off for the company.
Gabby: So that makes the most sense. Now like I said, it doesn’t make it cheaper. It just restructures the money and makes it so that you get better coverage for the same or a little bit more than what you would be paying with that individual plan. The marketplace, I feel like it’s, to be totally honest, I feel like it’s a Hail Mary.
Gabby: Like if you’re doing it, it’s because it’s your only option. And the problem there now becomes what is, again, classified as, you know, reasonable for an individual or a family, it’s not. It’s not reasonable. It’s crazy.
Anne: Well, I know that my brother, who was in between, in between jobs for some time, he had to go out and get independent coverage. And God, that was just, I think his deductible is $10,000. It really, you know – and that was just something that – if you’re in between jobs, really, that’s not something, if something happens to you in between jobs, and you have something serious happens, and you’ve got to pay $10,000, you’re probably in a position anyway, if you’re in between coverage, right, where you’re maybe looking for a job, and you don’t have the income necessarily there. So that’s really where I think it just, the whole system just, it just breaks.
Gabby: It does. And the problem is that literally we’re a country at this point that can’t afford to break –
Anne: Mm-hmm. Exactly.
Gabby: – as individuals. We can’t be broken and that’s BS because we all know that that’s not how things work. I remember years ago, my doctor looking at me, and he was so casual about it. He was so nonchalant, you know, and mind you, of course neurologist, he probably makes, I don’t know, $300,000 a year or more. He goes “you know, yeah, this MRI, that MRI, but you know, I mean, really, as someone with MS, I mean, you’re gonna hit your deductible every year for the rest of your life.” And I’m like “thanks, Doc. Wow.”
Anne: That, that’s like me with CT scans, right, ever year? Every year I’m going to get that checked, and yeah, MRI, CT scans, and you’re right. You’re gonna hit – but Gabby, every year for some strange reason, and this was when I was on top of it, something would happen where I didn’t hit the max. You know what I mean? And alll like good things, you think you’re gonna hit a max, but in reality, they’ll take a look at the bill and say, “well, really that should not have been billed $5000.” I had like pathology labs that were $5000 apiece per, you know, per breast. [laughs] So the two of them together were like $10,000.
Gabby: Those are some expensive boobies. I got to tell ya.
Anne: Those are the ones they took out, Gabby. Those are the ones they took out. So I’m like, I really are –
Gabby: Why didn’t you have them bronzed? I’d have been like, “you know what? Just dip them and turn them into a statue. I’m going to put them on top of my house or something.”
Anne: [bbep] $10,000. So then they took a look at that and said “no, they should have only charged you $2000. And so we’re going to cover 70% of that because you’re out of network.” By the way there are some other things you can do in that event. I actually looked for a grant that would pay for my pathology. And so I was able to get one of my breasts covered. [laughs] Under –
Gabby: Just one.
Anne: Under a grant. Just one. Not two. I had to pay for one. Buy one, get one.
Gabby: Was the nipple included or no?
Anne: Buy one, get one. But that did help. That did help. In the event that you are sick, that just makes everything so much more difficult to try and deal with. Thankfully I felt ok after my procedures, for the most part, once the bill started rolling in. And I’ll tell you what, the bills don’t start rolling in sometimes for a good six months or so. And you think you’re in the clear, and then all of a sudden you’ll get a bill. Because a lot of times, if you take the time, it’s like, it’s like finding government contract work, that course that Joya and I just did. If you do the paperwork and you do the footwork, for the most part, you can get some sort of, you know, break.
Gabby: Two things, two things to that, there’s also something called patient advocacy.
Gabby: And a lot of people don’t know that that exists. There are patient advocates in pretty much again every doctor’s network, hospital system –
Anne: It’s a beautiful thing.
Gabby: – pharmacy care, everywhere. You simply have to ask for them. You have to seek them out. You have to find ones that– your insurance works with. And an advocate, in many situations, is simply there to help you navigate all of this insanity when you are not at your best and not have to ignore it or push it to the side until you’re better. And that’s really I think the hard thing, is that when you are in the throes of dealing with illness, and you don’t feel like yourself, you’re just –
Anne: And you can’t work, and no income is coming in because you can’t work. That’s what makes us so, such a special, you know, category.
Anne: Right? We’re not paying ourselves every two weeks like a company might, right, if we have sick time. We don’t have sick time.
Gabby: No, no. There’s just no money.
Anne: Unless you’ve built in to – Exactly.
Gabby: There are also, thanks to the fact that we do have a very philanthropic country for the most part, there are organizations dedicated to damn near every sort of illness that you could be stricken with, and if you once again seek them out on a national level, they can help you. They can direct you to different resources and things that might help your particular situation.
Anne: And you know, something else I’m going to actually, you made me think, yet another point that Paul brought up on his blog article that because we’re entrepreneurs, it doesn’t mean we have less stress in our lives. As a matter of fact, we probably have more stress, because of the fact – I’m so much harder on myself than I ever was when I was working for somebody else. I’m the biggest – mmm – the hardest boss in the world to work for. As much as I love this job, there are many stressful components to it, good and bad. And that can affect your health, and there is only one you. Health is such a precious thing. It’s not something to screw around with, guys, at all.
Gabby: You and I, we tend to make light of, and we laugh at, and we make a lot of jokes around these topics, even though here we’re talking about them because they need to be talked about.
Anne: Yes, yes.
Gabby: But I want you guys to understand that that humor is coming from a place of, I’ve been through the fire.
Gabby: I’m out the other side –
Anne: I have cried about it.
Gabby: – for a while. Right. I have been through all of that, and I have to laugh. I have to make fun. I have to be able to – because otherwise, the weight of it and the stress of it could be too much.
Anne: I’ll be in a fetal position –
Anne: – here on the ground in my booth here.
Gabby: We do that not because we don’t take it seriously at all.
Anne: Oh gosh, no.
Gabby: But I can tell you firsthand, I have made myself sick. There are specific instances where I know my stress level was unmanaged. I wasn’t taking time for me. I wasn’t practicing self-care.
Gabby: So yeah, you have to, you have to, have to, have to put you first. But that’s, that, that right there, that something entrepreneurs do all the time. “The business comes first, the business comes first.” No, it doesn’t. There’s no business without you.
Anne: There’s no you, yeah, exactly.
Gabby: So you have to come first.
Anne: And even if you’re 20. I’m just saying.
Gabby: Oh my God.
Anne: Things can happen.
Gabby: Ok, I can’t say with certainty because nobody can. But looking back and knowing symptoms and understanding the trajectory of the last 20 years of my life, I probably had MS when I was in my 20’s. It just went undiagnosed.
Anne: Well, same could be said for my cancer –
Anne: – which, by the way, they said had been growing for eight years in my body.
Gabby: They don’t know – right, exactly.
Anne: I’m like really? Why didn’t you tell me eight years prior?
Gabby: But there it is. I mean, there are things that go unchecked, uncaught. So just because you’re sitting here going, I feel great, I feel fine, at some point realize that you have been living with this so much longer than you knew. We just, we want to urge everybody to really make these priorities.
Anne: Yes, make time for yourself, make time for your health.
Gabby: Talk with family. Talk with, whether it’s your spouse, your kids. It has to be something that you prioritize and take some of the fear out of and actually start to work toward goals and plans. We’re seeing where things are headed, and I know, in another five years, my God, we’re just going to see so, so many people struggling.
Anne: Yeah, we want you guys around, and we want you to feel good and be healthy first.
Gabby: So some of what sparked this discussion and this episode, I saw a post on social media, and a GoFundMe account that was set up for Celia Siegel. A lot of you know her. She’s pretty prominent in our industry as a former agent, and as a marketing expert and a manager.
Anne: She’s a beautiful, beautiful light in this industry.
Gabby: And you know, you and I both have had the opportunity to work with her. And my gosh, we have both been on a panel with her.
Anne: She’s amazing.
Gabby: A number of years back, right about the same time your diagnosis happened, I believe –
Gabby: – Celia was diagnosed with breast cancer. You are both survivors.
Gabby: Unfortunately Celia has had now a recurrence. It’s not the same cancer that she had previously. It’s something else. We’re trying to rally, and we just want to bring it to your attention, and if you want to seek out her Gofundme or her social media account, please don’t, don’t be weird, don’t barrage her with messages and well – she, she’s dealing right now. She’s got enough going on.
Anne: You can talk to us. We can happily forward that information.
Gabby: And if you can contribute $5, $10, whatever the amount might be, we would appreciate it. Celia would appreciate it. Her two daughters would greatly appreciate it, because yeah. This is a woman who, on top of being a business owner, you know, dealing with this illness, she’s a mom, and she’s got two kids in school.
Anne: I love her. I can’t, I can’t even tell you how this has affected me, so please, if you can, help out a beautiful human being.
Gabby: You know, it all comes back around too, because we never know when it could be one of us.
Anne: That’s, that’s the thing. Yeah. Guys, take care of yourselves, take care of your health.
Gabby: Health and wealth, that’s the mantra.
Anne: Allowing us to get that message out to you guys is our sponsor ipDTL. Find out more at ipdtl.com.
Gabby: And of course, efficient, fair and transparent, everything the industry has been asking for for far too long, it’s being handed for us on a silver platter through Voiceovers.com. Become apart of this. It’s a voiceover revolution.
Anne: All right, guys. Have a great week, be healthy, and we’ll see you next week.
Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.