Ten years ago this month, John Cooper, Brad Piccolo and Ben Han were recovering from broken bones, cracked vertebrae and heart problems, injuries suffered when the helicopter they were riding in struck a power line and crashed upside down in the Cimarron River near Cushing.
They were lucky to survive. The pilot and front passenger didn’t.
The core members of the Payne County band the Red Dirt Rangers, Cooper, Piccolo and Han are self-employed musicians and didn’t have insurance at the time. And once they recovered from the accident, pre-existing conditions caused by the wreck hindered the trio from getting medical coverage.
“What you find out is, insurance for musicians is, when they get hurt, their friends throw benefits for them. I mean, that’s it. That’s all they got. Most musicians haven’t been insurable. They can’t afford to pay it,” Cooper said during a recent interview at the Hart Building on Film Row.
“People rallied around us. Not only our fellow Oklahomans, but people really from around the world wrote in, made donations,” added Piccolo. “That’s when we became aware of the power of a group of loving, caring people that want to help other people out.”
The Rangers rallied a group of more than 50 Sooner State musicians to record a newly released single and music video titled “Stand (Let Your Voice Be Heard),” designed to sing out in support of the Affordable Care Act and expanding health coverage for uninsured Oklahomans.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Cooper and Piccolo said they were able to get reasonably priced health insurance for the first time last year through the federal Health Care Exchange.
The Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, is the fiercely debated federal health reform law passed in March 2010. At last count, about 69,000 Oklahomans had selected private health insurance through the federally run marketplace.
Originally, the act required states to expand their Medicaid programs or face penalties from the federal government. But a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made Medicaid expansion optional, leading more than 20 states, including Oklahoma, not to expand their programs. Under Oklahoma’s current Medicaid program, a childless adult without disabilities cannot qualify for coverage.
“In this day and age that we live in, in this great country, there’s no reason that someone should die for lack of health care, just simply because they’re on hard times or don’t have enough money in their bank account. That’s just not right,” Piccolo said.
Lou Carmichael, CEO of Variety Care, joined the Rangers at the recent Oklahoma City “Stand” release party at the Hart Building. Variety Care is a health center that accepts private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid and helps uninsured patients with a sliding fee scale based on family income.
“Oklahomans are some of the least healthy people in the United States ... and 650,000 Oklahomans do not have access to even basic health care,” she said. “The uninsured are our neighbors. They are veterans, nursing home aides, day-care workers, domestics, yard men ... and they’re joined by another group you’re going to see tonight: musicians and artists.”
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Scan the QR code or go to NewsOK.com to see the music video for “Stand (Let Your Voice Be Heard)” and get information on purchasing the charity single.
What you find out is, insurance for musicians is, when they get hurt, their friends throw benefits for them. I mean, that’s it. That’s all they got. Most musicians haven’t been insurable. They can’t afford to pay it.”