Power of Culture Blog
COVID-19 has devastated the arts and cultural sector. No more gigs. No more plays. No more gallery showings. Still, as they usually do, artists are finding ways to make and share their art with the world.
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AMHERST – Today the Mass Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Health Connector joined state and local leaders, cultural organizations, and public health officials at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst to celebrate an innovative new partnership and launch the ConnectorCare Card to Culture program.
Through this program, as of January 1, 2020 all 204,000 ConnectorCare card members in Massachusetts enjoy access to a new benefit: free or dramatically reduced admission prices to more than 130 cultural sites statewide. The partnership is the first of its kind in the country for a state-based health insurance exchange.
“We are excited to be partnering with the Health Connector to help assure that everybody in Massachusetts has health insurance and that everyone can enjoy the health benefits of cultural participation,” said Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council. “We know that people who participate in the arts and culture are 60 percent healthier than those who don’t. This groundbreaking partnership will open doors to cultural experiences that not only entertain and inspire but are also a protective factor for health and well-being.”
“The Health Connector believes that having access to affordable coverage means residents can live healthier, happier lives, and having access to the great cultural institutions in Massachusetts is part of that happier, healthier lifestyle,” said Louis Gutierrez, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Connector. “The ConnectorCare Card to Culture program is a great way to open doors to our members so they can fully experience our state’s vibrant arts and culture institutions. This partnership with the Mass Cultural Council is the first its kind for a state-based health insurance exchange, and we are pleased to again be national leaders in innovation for health and well-being.”
ConnectorCare Card to Culture links Massachusetts’ health and cultural sectors at a systemic level. By providing ConnectorCare members access to cultural institutions at a free or reduced price, it is expected participation in the arts by those served by ConnectorCare – including working families, young professionals, and new immigrants in Massachusetts – will increase. This engagement will provide health benefits such as increased physical activity and reduced feelings of stress and isolation. The program is an opportunity to redefine the value of a culturally engaged life by encouraging social and cultural interactions that ultimately promote personal well-being and public health.
To date, 104 arts and cultural organizations offering access to 132 sites statewide have volunteered to join the ConnectorCare Card to Culture program. In Western Mass., participating organizations include:
For more information and a list of all participating organizations, sorted by region, visit: www.MAhealthconnector.org/connect-to-culture.
The partnership was lauded by the Amherst state legislative delegation, who attended and spoke during today’s event.
“As Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, I am focused on ways to improve public health in the Commonwealth,” said State Senator Jo Comerford (D- Northampton). “Kudos to the Mass Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Health Connector on the launch of this innovative program which understands the comprehensive and innovative approaches required to go the distance for all. ConnectorCare Card to Culture will benefit both my constituents and our arts and culture economy.”
“Being engaged with arts and culture is not only good for people’s health, it’s a social determinant of health. We all should have access to it, unconditionally. By making arts and culture a health benefit, this exceptionally creative program operationalizes the benefits that all of us should be able to enjoy,” said State Representative Mindy Domb (D- Amherst).
The Health Connector’s ConnectorCare program provides affordable health coverage to lower-income Massachusetts residents. Commercial plans are subsidized to help pay for premium costs and include low co-pays and no deductible costs to members. To find out more about ConnectorCare, visit https://www.mahealthconnector.org/learn/plan-information/connectorcare-plans. Residents who need health insurance can visit MAhealthconnector.org to apply for coverage online and pick a plan. The Open Enrollment period is available until January 23, 2020.
The ConnectorCare Card to Culture program is part of Mass Cultural Council’s new CultureRx Initiative, and builds upon the success of the EBT Card to Culture program, a partnership with the state Department of Transitional Assistance that provides EBT benefit card holders free or dramatically reduced admission to more than 250 arts and cultural sites statewide. In two years the EBT card has been used to access admission to 370,000 cultural experiences.
“The Hitchcock Center has been a proud member of the EBT Card to Culture program since its inception. We are tremendously excited for the launch of ConnectorCare Card to Culture program as a significant advancement to breaking down barriers and opening up access to a culturally rich life for all people,” said Julie Johnson, Executive Director of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment.
“We could not be here today to celebrate this program without the unwavering support of hundreds of nonprofit organizations across Massachusetts who – without hesitation – willingly opened their doors and provided access to a culturally engaged life to those who may not have had the opportunity to visit before,” said Anita Walker. “The success of our Card to Culture programs is driven by the shared commitment of all our partners who are willing to employ innovative ideas to help our communities thrive.”
About the Mass Cultural Council
The Mass Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes excellence, inclusion, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences, fosters a rich cultural life for all Massachusetts residents, and contributes to the vitality of our communities and economy. The Council pursues this mission through a wide range of grants, initiatives, and advocacy for artists, communities, organizations, and schools. Learn more about how we harness the power of culture in Massachusetts.
About the Massachusetts Health Connector
The Massachusetts Health Connector is the Commonwealth’s health insurance exchange, and currently serves 320,000 individuals and small-employer members with health and dental insurance. Massachusetts residents who do not have health insurance from an employer or other entity can use the exchange to gain coverage. Through the ConnectorCare program, income-qualifying residents can access coverage that includes low-cost premiums and co-pays, and no deductibles. Access to health coverage for individuals and small businesses can be found at the Health Connector’s website.