Health Alliance for Austin Musicians in danger of capping enrollment

HAAM in danger of capping enrollment for Austin musicians

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, or HAAM, is asking for your help.

The group is looking to raise thousands of dollars, or else it may have to cap its enrollment for local musicians to receive healthcare.

And that could put Austin’s title of “The Live Music Capitol of the World” in jeopardy.

Musician Nakia Reynoso was one of the first members of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.

"I wanted to join HAAM because they were providing something I desperately needed,” said Reynoso.

For more than 10 years, the organization has helped with needs like primary medical care, dental and specialty care.

"HAAM makes it possible for me to be able to go to doctors before I get sick which is really helpful,” said Reynoso. "A lot of people think oh I need HAAM because I’m going to get sick, but really, if you are seeing a doctor on a regular basis who's caring for you, and advising you, then you hopefully avoid getting sick."

They even helped him get surgery to remove Reynoso's tonsil, and another to reconstruct his septum, surgeries he says he wouldn’t have been able to get without HAAM.

"Not without having to pay money for the rest of my life," said Reynoso.

Currently, he’s playing with the band Nakia and the Blues Grifters.

He said most musicians can’t afford to pay for healthcare on their own.

"We work for ourselves, we don't have corporate benefits, we don't have you know an HR person, we are the HR person," said Reynoso. "We don't make the kind of money that it would require to actually sustain those benefits."

But now, new musicians may not have the same opportunity as Reynoso.

Reenie Collins, the Executive Director for HAAM said they may have to cap enrollment.

"Quite frankly just our growth is outpacing our fundraising," said Collins. "It's the truth for any nonprofit, you can only serve as many people as you have funding for.”

According to Collins, they've seen a steady growth of members in the past 4 years, with a 25 percent increase since this time last year.

"Our biggest success has also been our biggest challenge," said Collins.

Right now, HAAM has more than 2,200 members. Collins said they have an operating budget of about $2.1 million and can allow about $1,000 for each member.

“That's pretty low when you're thinking about all the healthcare needs that we service,” said Collins.

But she said that's where the alliance comes in hand.

"We have alliances with other medical providers, and we partner with folks like Seton, like the St David’s Foundation, like the Sims foundation, like Central health," said Collins. "We partner with all those medical folks in the community and we're able to leverage our costs into either free or negotiated rates.”

Collins said they’re able to provide an additional $7 million dollars worth of healthcare services through their alliance agreements.

While the HAAM Benefit Fundraising Day is coming up in Sept, with a goal of $520,000, Collins said that's not going to cover it.

"We are already counting on that money in the current year's budget to fund what we've already got,” said Collins.

She said they need an additional $250,000 to keep up with growth, and closer to $500,000 if the growth rate continues.

So for now, Collins said it looks like they'll likely have to cap enrollment.

"It’s pretty imminent, I think it’s probably going to happen it’s just a matter of when we're going to do that," said Collins.

She said they’ll make an announcement in Sept. or Oct. but hope to find an additional funding source before then.

The last time HAAM capped enrollment was back in 2009, for about 9 months.

“It was hard on the community and we hate turning away people and I just don't want that to happen again,” said Collins.

According to Collins, already this year, they ran out of dental funding for a short period of time. She said they had to close for all appointments except emergencies, and said they also ran out of some premium assistance funding at the beginning of 2017.

"We do have limited funding,” said Collins.

While Collins said it’s not a crisis situation yet, but she, as well as Reynoso worry what it could mean for the future of Austin's music scene.

"I think a lot of musicians move here because of the promise of HAAM," said Reynoso.

"What is live music without musings, and if you can't have healthy musicians who are here to play and staying here to live cause they can afford to live here you can't have the live music capitol of the world," said Collins.

"HAAM  is a critical piece of what makes Austin music possible today, and if we don't continue to stay behind HAAM and lift HAAM up, then we run the risk of deteriorating you know what's left of the Austin music scene," said Reynoso. "I think Austin is already seeing a decline in the amount of musicians who are here, and we're seeing those people start to move away for various reasons the last thing that we need is to add losing HAAM as a reason for people to pack up and leave Austin."

"Everybody loves music and everybody loves live music, so supporting our musicians is critical but even if you didn't think about our economy think about our tourism, think about our cultural identity, musicians are what make up this creative city, this unique city, so we want to take care of the heart and soul of this city,” said Collins.

HAAM benefit day is Sept. 12, 2017, but you don’t have to wait to donate.

You can donate here.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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