Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Freelancers Insurance Company

Sara Horowitz, the Founder & Executive Director of the New York-based Freelancers Union, has announced that the Union now has its own insurance plan, the Freelancers Insurance Company.

This is exciting news. For now, its only for NY State residents, but Ms. Horowitz' goal is affordable health insurance for all freelancers in America.

Maybe this is dry subject matter. Well , OK --not "maybe." It is dry, and certainly not as interesting as an analysis of gag cartoon construction, etc. -- but the Freelancers Insurance Company is a big step toward recognition of the freelancer -- a person for whom "volatility is a way of life" -- as a real, working part of the economy. She, along with the foundation and corporate supporters, deserve our thanks and appreciation. Consider getting involved with the Union to assist the FIC's ability to cover working freelancers in other states.

Here's Sara Horowitz on the Freelancers Insurance Company:

In 1996, I founded a nonprofit organization to represent the needs and concerns of independent workers; in 2001, we created a program to get health insurance for independent workers in New York State. Back then, we recognized that the most pressing concern for freelancers was lack of affordable insurance. Over the years, Freelancers Union has worked with different insurance companies to get plans for our members at prices below what they’d pay on their own. Now, Freelancers Union has started Freelancers Insurance Company, to ensure that members have stable, long-term access to health insurance.

To start FIC, Freelancers Union has had a lot of help. Prominent financial supporters such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York State Health Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the New York City Investment Fund, Prudential’s Social Investments Program, and the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have made loans and grants to Freelancers Union to start FIC. And I’ve worked hard to bring together a team of the most experienced, principled people around to run the company.

Mostly, though, it’s because of the members of Freelancers Union that we’re able to do this remarkable thing. We’ve shown that it’s possible to create a group with the strength and longevity to be a sustainable “risk pool” for health insurance. Independent work arrangements are here to stay, and the market is finally recognizing that.

We’re here to stay, too. Together, Freelancers Union and its members are building institutions, like Freelancers Insurance Company, that will provide stability for the independent workforce for years to come.

One down, 49 to go.


Anonymous said...

Sadly this is far from exciting news for the members of the union. The new plans they offer are far from being attractive or sufficient, comparing to what they used to offer. I believe most of the members, that are really depending on these health plans, are more than upset at the moment and feel betrayed and left out.

Anonymous said...

There's always a way to fix things up in a Union to make their service efficient. Good luck to the Union!

Anonymous said...

Yeah this is a TERRIBLE transition and Sara Horwitz's self-congratulatory letter and video are even more offensive. This is after a giant overhaul of carriers last year, too. I'm miserable about this.

Anonymous said...

While I hate to post anything anonymously, I'll join in. While I certainly applaud the desire to provide individuals with comprehensive, affordable insurance options(especially in NY, where community rating, guarantee issue, etc have brought individual premiums for direct-pay policies over $700 a month for a single person), these plans are far from a positive impact on the NY freelance world.

All of these plans suffer from a gaping failing - inpatient hospitalization. The richest plan, at $450 a month for a single person, exposes an individual to what could cumulatively be $6,000 if they were in a worst-case scenario, exactly what insurance is designed to protect against. The numbers for member responsibility only go up as premium goes down.

I'd also briefly mention that I am hesitant to applaud Working Today on their stance that they support freelancers - in practice, not all freelancers are equal. Have you ever met a mechanic on one of their plans? They have a narrow scope of qualified professions that leave many people working on an untaxed basis restricted from joining their plans, defining eligibility as mainly white collar, artistically-geared individuals.

Anonymous said...

You're applauding the "union" that's not a union for marketing anxiety as "affordable peace of mind"? This view of the new plans is just lipstick on a pig!


Mike Lynch said...

I'm glad that Sara Horowitz has scheduled a series of three seminars, all with Web access, to talk about this insurance plan.

I agree with Anonymous #3, I hate when people post anonymously as well. I hope that everyone here will be participating in the seminars, anonymously or not.

Carolyn said...


I don't think you've been keeping up with our comments on Sara's blog and the independent blog Sara's statements make it clear that she just views the webinars as a platform for more preaching about "solidarity" and explanations of why the new insurance company is a good idea "for the long term" (when many of us can't think beyond financial survival in 2009). She hasn't been addressing our most pressing questions, such as why we no longer have an option that provides a real safety net -- i.e., protection against bankruptcy from catastrophic medical expenses.

What's more, we haven't been getting answers to specific questions that were submitted via e-mail and blog postings a week ago. Some of us think that we need that information before we can compare the new FIC plans to the Media Bistro, Oxford Sole Proprietor and other plans.

Oh, and then there's the little matter of when she's scheduled the webinars -- on weekday afternoons, obviously a convenient time for her, but not a convenient time for many FU members.

And by the way, from what I've been able to figure out (the communications are atrocious), the $6,000 mentioned by one of the anonymous commenters here does not by any means represent our maximum exposure under PPO 1 Plan, the "richest" plan offered by FIC.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that you would offer kudos to Sara Horowitz without at least looking at the new plan summaries, available on the FU website.

Working Today/FU received grants for the purpose of expanding health coverage in mid-2007; these grants are on the public record. Therefore, FIC has probably been in the works for 2 years, at a conservative estimate, and yet Nov. 11th was the first any members heard of it. Ms. Horowitz claims she was not legally allowed to inform people until she had a NY State license -- not so. Obviously she could not market those plans but at any point she could have informed FU members that changes were coming.
In addition, she continued to enroll people in the existing plans until Nov. 1, and possibly Dec. 1, without even a whisper about changes to come.

The changes in benefits and costs are mindboggling and the risk the consumer is being asked to assume should be illegal. An MRI goes from a $0 copay to 20% coinsurance -- at a conservative estimate that's probably $400. Even outpatient surgery could now cost $4000, with the $1000 deductible and 15% coinsurance.
The actions of FU do not deserve congratulations, but strong condemnation.

Carolyn said...

Today Gawker picked up on this story:

Anonymous said...

Frankly, the Freelancer's Union hasn't received nearly enough BAD press about this as they deserve. JH is right on the money. They gave us no time ot prepare for this and the coverage is nowhere near as good as what we had before. But here's the real kicker...if you look around you can actually get better coverage in NYC WITHOUT the Freelancer's Union. They used to have the best deal around, but that's no longer true. I went to and found several plans with lower deductibles and comparable if not lower premiums, so what purpose is the Freelancer's Union actually serving? It's certainly not in my interest to pay more money for less coverage.

Anonymous said...

I had BCBS direct POS via FU and It was god-sent, really was fantastic. I like most , was upset when my freelancers union insurance was going to kick in Jan ,2009. I was paying $380 a month for BCBS but I can say that the processing of the claims and getting my knee surgery done was fantastic, all very smooth and I paid $75 for my surgery, nothing for MRI and Xrays, I felt the monthly premium was high but hey at least I know I don't have to worry if anything happened - that's more comforting.

This year I have the $235 Freelancers Insurance plan which is nothing short of disaster. You get a headache just trying to calculate what you might be billed. While many are applauding Sara H. - I feel she has really found her niche in screwing the vulnerable. The plans if you read closely are garbage - doesn't matter what you get treated for get ready for a massive bill. MRI, Xray office visits, getting your ears cleaned whatever - the co-pays are high and what will follow will be even worse. Sorry to paint a painful picture - but wouldn't you rather have a plan that was simple, Freelancers Insurance had the opportunity to do just that. It's an 'old kind of' insurance company not a 'new one'

Sara calls it a new kind of insurance company. I call it day-light robbery. She had the opportunity to set up something different, a simple insurance plan. I am more stressed having this insurance plan than having no-insurance. Visiting the docs is always a new adventure now , apart from the co-payment you just don't know what to expect in the mail later.

I would advise all to make sure they read up on the freelancers insurance plan's before signing up and make sure to educate yourself on deductibles, co-insurance etc.

I owed it to myself to get health insurance, but now I am nervous just going to the doctors.

good luck!