For Episode 4 of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), which airs Saturday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., we addressed the Affordable Care Act and New Orleans. The nation experienced a seismic political shift a couple weeks ago with the election of businessman Donald Trump, who said, among many, many other things, that he would oversee the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Since his election, on “60 Minutes,” he offered a different take on his position, saying that some parts of the law — requiring insurers to cover people with preexisting medical conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 — might remain intact. But Trump could still eliminate key parts of the ACA, which gave health insurance to 20 million Americans. Supporters are faced with a battle regardless, and their biggest argument might well be that the rising cost of premiums is a fixable problem and not the disaster critics say it is.
The ACA affects New Orleans in at least two distinct and often overlapping ways — the city and state have more than their fare share of residents living at or below the poverty level, as well as many, many culture bearers and creative artists who contribute so much to the community and get paid very little. Health care coverage is everything. Remember, the ACA had been in effect for only a couple years when Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, in January, reversed the Jindal administrations stance and agreed to accept the federal government’s offer to expand Medicaid coverage and thereby helping hundreds of thousands of residents.
So on the show we heard from several people, some in pre-recorded interviews, to offer a diversity of perspectives on how this new world might affect them:
Susan Todd, executive director of 504HealthNet, a collaboration of 22 non-profit and governmental organizations in the Greater New Orleans area that form the primary care and behavioral health safety net.
Don Vappie, a beloved figure in the New Orleans jazz community as a musician and educator.
Lydia Treats, a circus sideshow performer who also is the mother two children – a teenage girl and pre-teen boy — and who also produces “Covington Cabaret” which returns tonight to the Northshore.
Comedians Katie East and Caitlin Broadnick, whose comedy show “Victory for T&A!” tonight at The Theatre St. Claude takes a humorous and revealing look at their respect battles with cancer.
To get a brief overview of what’s been happening with the Affordable Care Act, we turn to Susan Todd, executive director of 504HealthNet. She brings a unique blend of expertise in the area of primary care access and strengthening health systems in addition to a passion for community involvement. She has worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). While there, she worked on Medicaid, CHIP, and Marketplace enrollment. I asked Susan Todd to take us from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act back in 2014 and how it has evolved under the John Bel Edwards administration, and where she thinks it might be headed.
Don Vappie is a world-renowned jazz musician and presenter from New Orleans. He leads the Creole Jazz Serenaders, a classic New Orleans jazz orchestra, as well as his various jazz and R&B combos. He has produced and recorded numerous CDs and film sound tracks and is star of the PBS documentary “American Creole: New Orleans Reunion.” Known for his virtuosic banjo skills, Don is a stellar bassist, guitarist and vocalist. Add to that his commitment to the cultural creole music of New Orleans he calls “creole jazz”. As an educator, he has participated, presented and/or performed for programs at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Tulane University, Historic New Orleans Collection, NPR, Smithsonian, Appalachian State University and many more. He currently serves as jazz guitar instructor at Loyola University and is a member of the Loyola Jazz Faculty Combo.CUE: Queen/David Bowie, “Under Pressure”
I wanted to get an impression of what it’s like for local performing artists, and so I contacted circus sideshow producer and performer Lydia Treats, who literally ran away with the circus for several months this past year. Among her many talents, Lydia Treats is a sword swallower – perhaps the most popular in the city, and she’s gaining larger audiences with her “Covington Cabaret” show that returns tonight to the Green Room in Covington. I asked her to give me a sense of what it’s like to deal with health care coverage, especially while raising two children as a single mother, and here’s what she had to say.
KATIE EAST AND CAITLIN BRODNICK
We also welcomed a decidedly defiant dynamic duo, New Orleans’ Katie East and New York City’s Caitlin Brodnick. They have decided not to take their respective battles with cancer sitting down. In fact, they have no problem name-checking the sources of their illness in their comedy show “Victory for T&A” tonight at The Theatre at St. Claude. Faced with a history in her family of breast cancer, Brodnick boldly decided to opt for a preventative double mastectomy in her 20s — and even had Glamour document the experience on a web series, “Screw You Cancer.” East has been beset by a range of illnesses and more hardship, including bad surgical experiences and the discovery of cancer in her buttocks — hence the “T&A” of the title. And so she has turned her experiences into what she’s calling a “Coney Island-style freak show.”
BONUS CONTENT: ALEX RAWLS
I wanted a journalist’s perspective, and spoke with Alex Rawls. Alex Rawls has covered music, art, books and food in New Orleans since 1990. His work has appeared in NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit and OffBeat, and multiple national outlets. He’s also the creator of the music and culture website My Spilt Milk, so I asked him for his take on the scene as it relates to health care.
BONUS CONTENT: TRIXIE MINX
I also interviewed New Orleans burlesque producer and performer Trixie Minx earlier in 2016 to discuss her work with the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Here’s the podcast.
Chris Rock, “Robitussin”
Deluxx Folk Implosion, “I’m Just a Bill”
Don Vappie, “Please Come Home for Christmas”
The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”
B-52s, “Follow Your Bliss”
Tune in for our next show, next Saturday, Nov. 26, 3-4 p.m. for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA.” We will be discussing, among other topics, sexual harassment and sexual assault issues for local performers.
Also want to remind everyone if you like what you’re hearing you can “like” PopSmart NOLA on Facebook and follow me on Instagram at @popsmartnola and on Twitter at @dlsnola504.
Remember: Keep the intelligent discussion of New Orleans culture going.