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Rock and Roll May Never Die, but Sometimes It Gets Sick

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - 12:26
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Small businesses are leading the national retreat from employer-based health coverage.

More than half of the 6 million Americans who lost health insurance between 2000 and 2006 worked at small companies or were self-employed, a recent Health Affairs online article reported.

So the Health Blog was intrigued to learn that Gov’t Mule, the Southern Rock jam band and small business if there ever was one, recently started providing health insurance to nine musicians and crew members.

How come? Employee retention, as the folks in corporate HR sometimes put it.

“We found that magic combination of people that have been with us for a while, and we want them to stay,” says Stefani Scamardo, who manages the band and also DJs on Sirius satellite radio. “We had an entire band and crew that have no health insurance, and that was troubling.”

Big-name musicians like Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes – who also plays for theAllman Brothers and ranked No. 23 on Rolling Stone’s list of the hundred all-time greatest guitar players — can get health insurance through their union. Even then, the coverage can be costly or available only to those who pile up enough music sales each year, a dicey proposition in an unpredictable business. Crew members, who typically get paid only during tours, often have fewer options.

Gov’t Mule’s plan is from Oxford Health Plans, a unit of UnitedHealth. The band pays all the premiums, which came to $61,507 last year, Scamardo tells the Health Blog. “You don’t budget for it — you just make the decision to do it and deal with it,” she says. “It’s something that relieves a lot of stress in our organization; we all feel a lot better and sleep a lot better at night.”

Next up on Scamardo’s benefits playlist: a retirement plan.

Gov’t Mule Video Bonus: If you’re not familiar with the band, check out the video of their performance of “Thorazine Shuffle,” a Health Blog favorite.

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