Bartering for Health Care


If you’re among the millions of consumers who don’t have health insurance, you’ll appreciate this practice: a hospital in Brooklyn allows artists to pay for healthcare services with… their art.

AOL’s WalletPop recently wrote about this program, which caught our attention because… well, how couldn’t it? We all know how expensive healthcare is these days, especially for the uninsured.

So here’s how the Artist Access program at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, works. Say you play the piano, but have no health insurance coverage: a common situation among self-employed artists.  Through the program, you arrange to perform for the hospital staff or patients. You are paid with “credits” that you can then use to cover your hospital bills.

At this point you’re probably wondering how many hours one would have to clock in to cover a doctor’s or emergency room visit. This is where the other pleasant surprise comes in. Uninsured patients at Woodhull Hospital actually pay a flat fee of $15 to $60 for doctor’s visits, including things like x-rays and lab tests. Most artists end up paying around $20 per service.

Since most artists earn about 40 credits for each hour they perform at the hospital, they earn enough credits to cover two visits. By the end of 2008, WalletPop writes, more than 400 artists had earned credits this way.

So what kind of skills can you barter in for healthcare?  Some have painted, others – trained in yoga breathing – have worked with breast-cancer patients, yet others have read to children in the waiting room. The hospital even has a program in the works through which photographers will take pictures of newborn babies to give to the mothers as a thank-you gift.

You already wish you lived nearby, don’t you? So do we. But even more, we’re hoping that more hospitals throughout the country will take after Woodhull Hospital’s example and start implementing bartering programs of their own.

As a side note, WalletPop tells us in its video report (above), bartering for healthcare isn’t unheard-of in the United States. In the last years of his life, President George Washington bartered for healthcare services. He traded in 30 gallons of whiskey.

To learn more about this program, be sure to check out this video from WalletPop.

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