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.