Raising Awareness of the Uninsured

Jun 6, 2014

The Red Dirt Rangers and other musicians held a release party last night for a song and video to raise awareness of an organization to help uninsured musicians and artists.

The event in the Hart Building in Oklahoma City’s Film Row also focused on Oklahomans who live day to day without any health insurance.

KOSU’s Michael Cross reports.

Dozens of people from all walks of life sit in the Hart Building enthralled by a video featuring more than 60 musicians singing “Stand (Let Your Voice Be Heard)”.

The song and video just came out on I-Tunes and YouTube to raise awareness of the Red Dirt Relief Fund.

The effort for the fund started a few years ago when three members of the Red Dirt Rangers got seriously injured in a helicopter accident.

They were without insurance and the medical bills began piling up.

Brad Piccolo was one of those who was injured and says that’s when he learned the power of coming together as a community.

“We were helped tremendously by a group of people who some of them didn’t know us from Adam. But they came together and helped us out. Through that we learned that’s how things should be. We should help out our fellow man. We try to do that.”

Brad rewrote the lyrics from a Chuck Dunlap song called “Patriots Plea”.

The Red Dirt Rangers then started calling all their friends to lend a hand in the piece, and he says no one said “no”.

Steve Ripley produced the piece he calls the “Red Dirt ‘We Are the World’”, and it’s evident in the video.

Steve says he’s never done anything like this before, and it’s helped build his faith in the Oklahoma music scene.

Not just the veterans, but also the new artists.

“They’re working hard, and they’re happy to be there.  That’s what I appreciate from these people. I didn’t see a frown or “where’s my money”.  Nothing! They were all thrilled to be there, and some of them both days had to travel to Tulsa to do it.”

Steve says the thing to understand about musicians is they don’t have the ability to get insurance and live moment to moment.

“These people work hard. Now they don’t maybe dig ditches, but its hard work with lots of hours and sometimes unsafe hours and traveling to do all this stuff.”

Of course, Steve says this all could change now with the Affordable Care Act and health care exchanges.

The event also raised awareness of groups like the Variety Care Foundation which works with the uninsured who don’t usually have access to health care.

Former state Senator and now variety Executive Director Andrew Rice talks about one person the organization helped who didn’t have health care.

“He actually was employed but because of his not having insurance his employer didn’t provide it he couldn’t afford to buy that on his own. He ended up losing his job because he was so sick he couldn’t work.”

Rice also feels Oklahomans are hurt more because the state didn’t expand Medicaid which could have helped more than a hundred thousand people.

But when all is said and done, Brad Piccolo says it’s all about the people and coming together to help.

“When people are going through something like this, I mean, this could wipe out their life savings. But, hopefully as time goes on our name is getting out there, the red Dirt Relief Fund. We’re raising more money so we’ll be able to give out more grants and what not. That’s our goal.”

AS the song comes to an end, the crowd sits in silence as words cross the screen.

“Oklahoma residents are among the least healthy in the nation, ranking among the bottom five state.”

“650,000 Oklahomans do not have health coverage. Most of them work two jobs”

And you can find more information at RedDirtReliefFund.org.