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Artists to barter talent for health care

2/2/2012, 4:32 p.m.

The Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center officially announced an innovative program that allows artists of all disciplines the opportunity to exchange their creative services for medical care. The program, branded the "Lincoln Art Exchange," is designed to address the growing number of independent and freelance artists who cannot afford to enroll in health insurance plans and have become an at-risk population lacking access to quality health care.

Accompanied by Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, hip-hop celebrity Roxanne Shante and representatives from arts and philanthropy organizations, Iris Jimenez-Hernandez, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) senior vice president and Lincoln Hospital executive director, and Alan D. Aviles, HHC president and CEO, officially launched and gave details of the program during a press conference held in the lobby of the Bronx facility.

"I am pleased to announce that, as of January 2012, uninsured New York City artists will be able to trade their artistic talents for health care at Lincoln Hospital," said Jimenez-Hernandez.

Miranda, most celebrated for writing and starring in the Broadway musical "In the Heights," is among the personalities who have partnered with Lincoln Hospital in this effort. "There are many uninsured artists in New York City, and to be able to contribute their creativity and talents at Lincoln Hospital while simultaneously gaining access to medical care is ingenious."

"We welcome this important partnership with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roxanne Shante, the Actors' Fund, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Teatro Pregones and Comunilife," said Aviles. "This is a timely program for the growing number of artists who perform and reside in New York City, too many of whom lack health insurance."

Through the Lincoln Art Exchange, rather than paying for health care out of pocket, artists may pay through an art exchange barter system. For example, for every hour of musical performance, painting a mural or any other creative activity or service, the artist earns 40 "health credits" (the equivalent of $40) toward medical care.

Eligible artists-ranging from actors, musicians, dancers, poets writers and anyone making a living through a creative means-can access an array of affordable, comprehensive services such as doctor visits, laboratory tests, hospitalizations, emergency care, medical and surgical procedures, dental care, prescriptions, ambulatory surgery and other services provided by the hospital. Eligibility will be based on the HHC Options program, an HHC financial services program that offers a sliding fee scale to low-income or uninsured New Yorkers, with fees starting as low as $15 for a doctor's visit.

Once enrolled in the program, artists will participate in activities throughout the hospital, such as reading to patients, performing at special events, painting murals in clinics and inpatient units, art gallery presentations and other events that will enhance the hospital environment and the patient and staff experience.

First initiated at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn in 2005, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center is the second HHC facility to implement the program and the only one in Bronx County. Other cultural organizations that have partnered with the hospital for recruitment of artists are the Bronx Museum, Teatro Pregones and Comunilife.

Those artists who are interested in joining or need more information can call the dedicated Art Exchange telephone line at (855) LIN-ARTS (546-2787) and speak with Colette M. Barrow, program coordinator. You may also visit www.nyc.gov/hhc/

lincolnartexchange.