They say singing has the power to raise your spirits and improve your health. That might literally be true for the singers enrolled in the Artist Access program at Brooklyn's Woodhull Medical Center, where artists from a range of expertise can exchange performances for health care.

Through the Artist Access program, artists can exchange performances or interactive programs for patients at Woodhull Medical Center for health care credits. The artists get 40 credits for each hour of work which can be used in lieu of dollars to cover sliding scale fees for health care costs at the medical center.  The credits can be exchanged for doctors' and dentists' vists, prescriptions, ER visits, mental health services, surgeries, and even in-patient stays at the facility.

The program is the brainchild of Woodhull's medical director, Dr. Edward Fishkin who was horrified one day when he struck up a conversation at a restaurant with two visibly pregnant women who could not afford health care of any kind because they were not insured.  Both women were artists, and Fishkin saw an opportunity to reach out to New York's blossoming artistic community with a program that could benefit the artists as well as Woodhull's other patients.

To enroll in the Artist Access program, artists apply through the hospital’s Creative Arts Department which then reviews proposals to determine if they are a good match for their patients.  The hospital matches performance and interactive programs (like drawing classes for kids) with departments such as the Pediatric, Geriatric, or Rehabilitation Units.

With 50 million Americans currently lacking health insurance, this program is a creative way to make health care more accessible to the uninsured.  To date, more than 600 artists have used the Artist Access program to exchange art for medical care.  To qualify, applicants must live in New York City, be uninsured, and be able to prove that their support themselves financially through their art.

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