Dec 30, 2008

Problems with Freelancers Union Healthcare

I signed up with Freelancers Union for healthcare in October, after several days comparing plans and filling out forms, so I was dismayed when they announced in November that they were changing all of their health plans come January to a new health provider. That meant more research.

Who is this new health provider? Freelancers Insurance Company, a new independent company setup by, you guessed it, Freelancers Union. As the website explains:

Freelancers Insurance Company (FIC) is a for-profit insurance company that provides health insurance solely to the eligible New York-based members of Freelancers Union, a nonprofit membership organization, and to those members’ dependents.

The new plans offered by FIC not only cost more than the old plans, they also cover less in return. And in all of the hubristic email from FU about the change, nowhere did CEO Sara Horowitz explain how a non-profit union operating its own for-profit health insurance company can be anything other than a conflict of interests. How can the CEO of a health insurance company also in good faith be the head of the non-profit organization that is its sole source of clients?

As if to demonstrate this, in its first act in this new relationship, FU created a transition system which penalized members who did not switch to the new plans promptly - by requiring payment of an additional two months in advance. This move benefitted FIC but cannot have helped members already stressed by the transition.

If the new plans had started out no more expensive than the old plans, and if members had been given a choice to stay with their old plan for a longer grace period, this would have demonstrated that FU still put its members ahead of profits - and I would have made the transition to the new plans. Instead, I felt FU was strong-arming its members to make a choice that many didn't want. The only option was to leave.

I now get my healthcare from Fractured Atlas, a non-profit group aimed towards artists that has no pretensions of being a health insurance carrier.

The NYTimes article glosses these issues as the "grumblings" of a few members. Reading the members-only Forums at Freelancers, it is clear that the frustrations at Freelancers Union are much deeper. I will not return to Freelancers Union unless it offers health plans besides those carried at FIC.

7 comments:

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Anonymous said...

I agree entirely. It truly felt like they were trying to manipulate us into accepting their plan. Fortunately I was able to get onto another plan before Dec. 31 but it involved spending the entire month of December researching health plans and doctors and assembling the documentation required to qualify for my new plan. In short, in one of my busiest months as a freelancer, this move on the part of the Freelancer's Union forced me to neglect work and sleep, spending hours trying to figure out how to avoid a lapse in coverage. I hope someone will do a real story about the impact of their shenanigans, and I can only hope that a subsequent drop in their membership will force them to own up to the fact that they did us a tremendous disservice.

Anonymous said...

Boy are you smart. My husband and I didn't do our research and went with Freelancers. Their billing department is so screwed up. Cancelled our policy because of nonpayment when we actually paid 2 weeks in advance and had a cancelled check to prove it. They charged us $40 to reinstate and still haven't applied the orginal amount paid to the account. So, where did the money go? Cibank can prove they cashed the check but they don't know where it is. I can go on and on. Tried your insurance option (LIA) but not accepting any new members.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Freelancers Union was unable to run a health insurance company. Each month, it fails to process premium payments on time, then claims that one's health insurance is "cancelled," unless one forwards a $50 fee. Tidy!
I've asked both the state attorney general and the state insurance department to intervene. I doubt the company will last the year. Meanwhile, I'll be out ASAP.

mr_kitty said...

They did last the year, but each year since 2010 they raise premiums 20% and cut benefits.

Last year they gutted the vision care so badly that I just found out it only contributes $140 every *two* years towards an exam and contacts!

Thanks for the tip on Fractured. I'll shop around and see if they're the best fit for me.

mr_kitty said...

They did last the year, but each year since 2010 they raise premiums 20% and cut benefits.

Last year they gutted the vision care so badly that I just found out it only contributes $140 every *two* years towards an exam and contacts!

Thanks for the tip on Fractured. I'll shop around and see if they're the best fit for me.

Anonymous said...

Ditto ditto ditto on everyones experiences. now I can't even CANCEL my plan. Had to issue a stop payment from my bank to get them to stop deducting money from my account. These guys seemed alright when I signed on 3 years ago. Today they are awful.