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Lincoln Hospital program helps uninsured artists

Trading their talents for medical care

Lincoln Hospital is getting a little “creative” with health care.
 
Uninsured artists can now exchange their talents for medical care with a new program dubbed the Lincoln Art Exchange.
 
“We have a large artist community in the Bronx and northern Manhattan who often go without care,” said the hospital’s Executive Director Iris Jimenez-Hernandez. “This (program) will change that and it allows artists to give back to their local community.”
 
The program which officially launches Monday is modeled after the Artist Access program at Brooklyn’s Woodhull Medical Center that started in 2005 and now helps more than 400 artists.
 
Eligible artists do a brief interview then meet a financial counselor to enroll in a financial aid program that allows patients to pay for medical care on a sliding scale.
 
Once enrolled, artists will be scheduled to work with patients or at hospital events.
 
Artists earn 40 credits equivalent to $40 for each hour worked. These credits can be used toward a host of services, from doctor visits to prescriptions to surgical procedures.
 
The possibilities for artists are virtually endless, organizers said. Musicians can work with seniors, yoga instructors can train expectant moms, dancers can help adolescents tackle obesity.
 
“It’s something that takes on a very dynamic energy,” said Jimenez-Hernandez, who worked on Woodhull’s program. “The more you do it, the more ideas you get.”
 
Artist Barbara Russell, 56, of Manhattan, hasn’t had health insurance since 2005.
 
“I would walk into a doctor’s office and they’d say ‘Okay, that will be $500’ and I’d think “Okay, well I’ll have to wait until I make $500 to pay you,’” said Russell, who goes by the moniker “Ms. B, the Doodle Queen.”
 
As part of the program, she will hold doodling workshops for patients, which she sees as “a therapeutic way of clearing the mind.”
 
For Russell, the Lincoln Art Exchange eases a major burden.
 
“I feel more secure,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about paying for health care.”
 
The benefits for patients is equally substantial, said Barbara Muckle, the hospital’s senior rehabilitation counselor.
 
“The arts in itself is one of the most valuable (tools) that we have not been able to use,” she said. “This program we’re bringing on board will tap into that.”
 
Lincoln officials are working with various art groups to get the word out to artists citywide.
 
There’s no cap on how many artists can join the program and artists can participate as long as there is a need or just a few times to pay for health care. No minimum participation is required.
 
“This is just one more way we’re trying to improve health outcomes for New York City residents and the art community,” Jimenez-Hernandez said.
 
To learn more, call 855-LIN-ARTS (855-546-2787) or send an email to lincolnartexchange@nychhc.org.

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