Friday, November 28, 2008

Interested parties

Hi folks it s David. I am serious about going to BCBS. I could use some help as it will take some time and effort. To get this all together. What I need right ow in a confidential email not to be given out are the names and email addresses of all who are interested in an Empire BCBS plan. I could also use a name of an attorney in the group or someone who can asisst in making this all happen. Please email with this information and I will do the best I can.
Thanks all!


  1. I'll e-mail you right now. Thanks for your efforts!

  2. I e-mailed you as well... hope you get a lot of interested parties.. please update here on the blog. Thanks!!

  3. Any updates with positive progress?

  4. hi there - thank you for doing this.. I just wanted to mention that as you probably know this is a timely issue.. since many insurance plans have a deadline for Jan. 1 coverage of mid December ... any chance that we'll have an update here by early next week so we know how to proceed if we need to move on other applications? thanks again!!

  5. ... just to echo the above comments- Thank you for researching this. Just emailed you with my name and email address to join the list.

  6. admire your efforts, but it's not going to happen. bcbs won't be moved by a small group of former FU people. but hey, crazier things have happened.

  7. I spoke with BCBS today and a nice rep by the name of Trevor. He said that a group needs 2-50 people 51 will get a better rate. In addition we need to be in some sort of business together. Even if the business is to complain about Freelancers Union Insurance. Then we provide the names of all members and proof of a business of the group and then fill out applications Someone out there please the cost and speed of setting up an S or C corp in Maryland since you don't have to have a business there and it is really cheap. I will send a copy of the pdf files that were sent to be from the Empire rep. If this does not work out quickly one of the members sent me the name of an insurance agent. Perhaps we can go to him and deal with him directly. Time is of the essence people so lets get the word out. I am about halfway to 51. I will send out the pdf tomorrow as I am real tired and need to sleep as it is 2AM in NY and I am working on this and a few other things to try and make a buck!
    Let's do it and show FU we can do this!

  8. To anonymous who said I should get a life, it is because I have one and want to continue to have a healthy one for myself that I am doing this. If you have nothing positive to add then why don't you go post on the yahoo message boards. This is for serious people with a real problem. No time for clowns.

  9. I just received the PDFs from BCBS and I find the rates interesting when compared to what FU says what would happen in 2009.

    My rate for the BCBS POS Direct plan for an employee+spouse would increase by 21% from what I pay now. But that's for a much smaller group than FU. Its likely that if FU had sought the 2009 rate from BCBS it would have been less. Even if it weren't I would still pick the BCBS plan over the FIC mess.

    One more reason to get upset...

  10. To all who sent me emails, I sent you the pdfs that I received from BCBS. Right now we can become a small group and get those rates but we need to form an S or C Corp. in MD as it is cheap and fast. Someone out there please do the legwork and get back to me. If all are in agreement then the next step is to contact BCBS with this info that we have a corp and get a group rate. If this fails then I will email everyone with the name of a BCBS insurance rep and his information. I have not given out any names to anyone and I intend to keep it that way as long as possible. However if we have to form a business , then your anonymity will not be possible as we will all be peers and coworkers. I will find out from Trevor at BCBS as far as to we need as far managing the plan.
    Thanks all who care and please notify others. Post on the FU blogspace as this site had been cleaned from the posts that I saw. Apparently the debacle continues...

  11. I just read a post that included your website, and I emailed you to add me to list in order to try and stay with BCBS. I will keep track and add my own posts to their blogs.

    Thanks for organizing this

  12. I saw the rates for an individual direct-pay on the Empire site and they are simply atrocious. Please let me know if I'm missing something here as I would love for this to work out but...

    I'd be surprised if BCBS doesn't require the insured be employees of the company working at least 20 hrs/week. If so, then employees need to be paid minimum wage of $7.15/hr in NY (rising to $7.25/hr in July 2009). In order for the premiums to be tax-deductible to the corporation then it must pay all of the premiums for the employee.

    So, where does the revenue come from in order to pay the employees the required wages as well as the medical premiums?

  13. hi. this is cynthia.

    as i mentioned last week, i am preparing an apples-to-apples comparison of costs/benefits among the media bistro plans, the 2008 empire bc/bs, and the new fu plan. it is based on a healthy single person living in nyc looking for low premiums.

    i expected to have the spreadsheet finalized early this week but unfortunately i ran into a snag with a media bistro customer service person last week right before the holidays who got very short with me and didn't have time for some questions i had. i lost the whole holiday weekend. i am back on track now but need a couple more days.

    importantly, media bistro won't have updated 2009 rates until today/tomorrow.

    just to give you the status...

  14. The rates I have sent out to you are for a small group under 50 people. yes the max plan did go up over 50% but you cannot compare a small group plan for 50 people and under to a plan for the thousands of people that the FU has on their plan.

    My contact does not have the ability to underwrite for above 50 people. Bearing that in mind, no matter what happens if all are in agreement, I think we need to decide on going ahead with a business, approaching an agent who can underwrite us, and then we each pay our dues into an account and then a single check is written or electronically drawn to pay insurance. The cost of forming the corp with have to be shared by all and as new members are added it will be put into the pool so that we all own a piece and each owners cost will continue to decrease over time as far as the cost of annual corporation taxes, etc. Anyone with experience in doing this should please email me at

  15. If we can form even a LLP for the reason of being a management company to manage ourselves, we may be able to get a decent rate and if enough of us join then the answer is obvious. If there are any CPA's or lawyers out there that you know of that can handle the creation of an LLP in Delaware or Maryland or any other relevant info along these lines pleas email me at the address above. I just spoke with someone and we do have options. The problem is that no one wants to write a sole proprietor policy anymore. We need to combine in order to survive. Empire requires to people minimum capable of being written for insurance, aside from all the necessary business paperwork and forms. After that the rest is not soo bad but we have to continue to try.

  16. David, I'm one of the people on your list. I'm behind on client work and other matters, so I don't have time today to study the charts you sent and research related issues.

    My biggest question is: What are the eligibility requirements for the people in your group? Income? Type of work? Hours worked?

    My biggest problem, though, is that for tax reasons I need to pay my January and February premiums before the end of December. To be sure that I can do that with FU, I really need to enroll in an FU plan this coming weekend and then keeping looking for a new plan -- possibly for coverage beginning in the 2nd Q of 2009. With all the complications of forming a corporation and so forth, it's obvious that I can't count on being able to enroll in your BCBS plan within my timeframe. Therefore, I'm afraid you're going to have to scratch one person from your list. (Tomorrow, when I have more time, I'll e-mail you and explain more, and maybe by then more will be posted here.)

  17. So is this idea still viable?

  18. got the e-mail...thanks. i haven't had a chance to fully examine each plan though. my question is... does everyone have to agree on the same plan for this to move forward? If so.. which plan and at what monthly rate would that be? and to echo the above comment... is this still a viable option? thanks again. please update..

  19. I've reviewed the plans and am astonished and heartened to find that such a tiny group could get such GREAT quotes from BCBS. David- are you still working on this and have any lawyers or cpas contacted you? I will email you too. Please let us know if the concerns expressed above are a problem, ie: do we have to be employees of our LLC etc. or could we just be members? If this is a viable plan to pursue, I think we should all meet soon.

  20. David - please update soon as to what needs to be done next. I have another insurance application on hold that needs to be sent in ASAP. THANKS SO MUCH!

  21. FYI I have an application for an empire bcbs plan pending (thru a broker) cannot be processed b/c freelancers will not / cannot give notice of termination of my bcbs policy thru FU.A new application for a bcbs plan won't be processed without this This has been a nightmare for all of us. This isvwhy I finally got a broker, thinking it would help, vs switching back to the self pay plan i til Nov, but it is the same problem, the broker emailed me last night.

  22. I don't understand... are you applying for January 1st coverage? Why can't freelancer's give notice of termination if you are not going to continue with them? Please explain.. thank you very much.

  23. We are each separately trying to deal with this nightmare and it's tough! What do you all think of having at least a conference call together to help eachother and give each other options we've found? Also, if the group policy that David started discussion about is still a possibility worth investigating, we could talk that over in a conference call. For example, Anonymous 12/5 comment 10:58pm about switching to a new bcbs policy through a broker but not being able to get notice of termination from FU- I'd like to stay with BCBS if possible and would love to know what policy you opted for, how much it costs and if you have a good broker... It would be so much easier if we could speak with eachother and trade information. This blogging and Anonymously to boot is better than nothing, but it's confusing and slow...

  24. I have to say it doesn't make much obvious sense to me that NY would permit a business association of naysayers against FU... maybe the broker needs to doublecheck... I'd be sure that a non profit (not for the purpose of making money) association qualifies (which I could see binding us all together; freelancers desseminating factual information about FU) otherwise I'm not sure how we pull it off; and/or we're back to needing to make sure we meet NY association workers guidelines, (20 hrs/8 weeks) no?

  25. We do NOT work for Freelancers Union and were able to get insurance through our membership to their organization. Therefore, the 20 hrs/8 weeks NY assoc workers guidelines may not apply if we set up a similar non-profit and pay in as members. It would be helpful to speak with eachother in a conference call to figure out what we know and what we don't about how this works. Is anyone else interested in a conference call? The BCBS insurance charts that David emailed to those of us who requested them, show similar coverage and prices to the insurance we had with FU BCBS in 2008 and therefore are very attractive.

  26. maybe Sunday afternoon for a conference call?

  27. I would think Nathan might have some perspective on the feasibility of this (as a "broker" to media bistro, I believe...)

    What happens if a few people develop costly conditions that bring up the rates? Does the group agree at the outset that those people will shift to another plan after two years, or some such term, if their costs render the plan unaffordable for the others. A brutal question, but they could segue to a New York individual plan at that point. How would such an agreement be enforced? If it wasn't, if the group stays healthy (and perhaps commits to not overutilize services as far as possible) the arrangement would stay viable with affordable premiums, but if not, back in the same boat? Just thinking aloud here.

  28. Hello All. It's David and close to sunset so I need to go offline. I mailed the info to all interested parties and if those of you who wrote to me are serious than we need about 10-12 more people to qualify for a large group and better rates than I emailed to you. We only need to subscribe to BCBS and we can choose our own plans as it was explained to me. If we hit the magic number we will need a conference call or a place to meet to make this happen. We would be best served with an LLP I think and we need to make it a management company where basically we manage ourselves and so long as we don't have any COI with our other jobs and we do it through a lawyer and file the papers, we can get a large group rate and tell FU where to go. Please ask your friends if they know any legit lawyers capable of doing this and I will ask mine. We would need members who are willing to give the time to run this and share it as we would be taking care of ourselves and others. I am not doing this to make a statement but I wonder if Sara has read this and what if anything she has done to fix the debacle over at FU. I have been really busy trying to earn a living and fixing PC with a jammed thumb is no fun. Especially on your dominant hand. We are real close and I don't want to let any of you down.

  29. Hi, I posted at 10:58 am re: the difficulty obtaining a termination of covergare letter from Freelancers. Yes, I am applying for Empire BCBS coverage for Jan 1st. I contacted FU on several occasions; they stated that until the plan is terminated on 12/31/08, they could not provide a letter (though they offered to cancel my insurance on the spot while I was on the phone that day though I am paid through 12/31, and then send me a letter saying I was terminated)! Eventually they emailed a letter, not even with my full name or ID #, stating the POS plan would not be offered in January 2009. It is standard that proof of termination be shown when enrolling in a new plan within the same company (ie: I can't have 2 BCBS plans). My insurance broker asked that I at least ask for a "letter of creditable coverage." FU could not provide this either. If you need this, do not even bother calling the # on the back of your BCBS card. Call Empire BCBS at 1-800-261-5962. You will get a rep who will be more responsive to your needs, not someone from "Working Today." The Empire rep today after I spoke with her told me she would fax me a letter of cerditable coverage within a few days: I had it within a few hours. This is still a huge problem b/c it doesn't address the termination & the application still can't be procesed so eveything will end up being retroactive if it is delayed too long but I am trying to let the broker worry about this for now. I (like all of you I am sure) spent every spare moment that I don't have in between seeing patients and billing and dealing with patients' insurance companies freaking out about this insurance horror. I am one of the group who was caught in the tail end of the bait & switch.....just caught me in Nov 2008.

  30. There is a possibility that any new group coming to BCBS gets their standard "quotes" and that then the premium will be adjusted in a year if there is heavier use (than their standard predicts). I would think that might be the case (as it was with FU's use of the POS plan) and that in a year, we might be looking at sharply higher premiums? Just a thought . . .

  31. I do NOT believe that our BCBS premiums would have increased more than FU's $455 monthly premium - a horrible new offering with 20% co-insurance on x-rays and diagnostic imaging and 15% co-insurance in the hospital! FU's new FIC policies could bankrupt a person if something serious happened - and that's the whole point of having insurance, isn't it?!?! To protect against the what if! At the very least, with even a minor health event requiring diagnostic tests, x-rays etc. we'd face thousands of dollars out of pocket in addition to the $5460 per year premium cost. It's so outragious that Sara did NOT even negotiate with BCBS to find out what the 2009 premium costs would have been! I am still so angry! I've been a member, paying for insurance for 5 years and feel so betrayed.

  32. Perhaps if a high deductible option is also included in the "splinter" group's new plans, there would be something to go to if the PPO plan went way up Jan 2010.

  33. What annoys me is that compared to BCBS United, or CIGNA, freelancers is small. Now she has taken a good idea, and converted it to a business. That means she will be in the business of denying coverage. Disagree? Well she just shut down the most generous of the PPOs and raised the rates. Gah, I am setting few things in motion and will be rid of Freelancers shortly.

  34. Anyone ever looked into the programs offered by NASRO
    It's Oxford not BCBS

  35. Yes -- Oxford plans offered by NASRO are the same plans with the same premiums as those offered by Media Bistro. A possible advantage could be that there doesn't seem to be any requirement regardng the type of freelance work you do.

  36. Again, there IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR TYPE OF FREELANCE WORK IN THE MEDIABISTRO PLANS. You can be a plumber, a graphic artist, anything under the bloody sun.
    This process is difficult enough without people sending out information that they just make up.

  37. has anyone compared Media Bistro and NASRO's prices for the Oxford plans? Also, I noticed Oxford's "Sole Proprietor Exclusive Plan Metro Liberty Network" plan is $445 and does NOT impose deductibles nor co-insurance. Does anyone know anybody who has used this plan and whether they like it?

  38. note regarding above post: $445 is monthly premium listed on NASRO's site for New Yorkers for the particular plan I listed above. (I haven't checked Media Bistro's price yet...)

  39. I realize this isn't technically about a group for our own BCBS plan, but this seems to be the only active thread (?)

    FU in NY Times today

    Freelancers Balk at a Change in Health Benefits
    Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
    Sara Horowitz, seated, the founder of the Freelancers Union, has faced some criticism over a new health plan for its members.

    Yahoo! Buzz

    Published: December 7, 2008
    By many measures, the Freelancers Union has been a success — the Brooklyn-based organization has 92,000 members; it provides health, dental and disability coverage to thousands of freelancers; and its founder, Sara Horowitz, won a MacArthur “genius” fellowship.

    Skip to next paragraph

    Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
    “Anything new you start is going to be messy,” Ms. Horowitz said.
    As part of her vision to create a safety net for freelancers, Ms. Horowitz had long dreamed of creating a health insurance company that tailored its offerings to freelancers, be they Web designers, jazz musicians, graphic artists or dancers.

    In mid-November, she proudly announced that the Freelancers Union had set up a state-approved health insurer — the Freelancers Insurance Company — that offered significantly lower premiums and better coverage than freelancers could generally obtain on the open market.

    Numerous health care experts and foundations, including the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, helped establish the new company, and Ms. Horowitz was perhaps expecting widespread applause over its formation. Instead she faced a surprising amount of carping and sniping.

    A month ago, Ms. Horowitz wrote to 19,000 members who had obtained coverage through the union’s current plan with Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, telling them that they had to choose from the new company’s five health plans — or look elsewhere for coverage. That move sparked considerable criticism, and even inspired a Web site,

    Several freelancers complained that the new plans — available only to members who live or work in New York — had higher premiums, higher deductibles and more holes than their current plans. And some grumbled that just a year ago the union had forced them to switch from HIP Health Plan of New York to Empire Blue Cross.

    “I have a lot of respect for what she’s accomplished, but the fact of the matter is a lot of people feel the rug has been pulled out from under them,” said Jennifer Mesiano, a freelance grant writer. “Some folks had just signed up for their old health plan, and they had no idea this change was coming and what it might mean in terms of medical costs.”

    Despite the criticism, Ms. Horowitz insists that the new insurance company is proving to be a success, noting that 8,000 people had already signed up for its new plans. The deadline for the 19,000 to sign up is Jan. 1, when the new plans take effect. Ms. Horowitz said that only a few dozen people had criticized the new plans.

    She acknowledged that the plans often had higher premiums and deductibles, saying that soaring costs had caused similar increases in health plans nationwide.

    “I understand that people say they feel there are a lot of changes, but all those changes have put freelancers in a stronger position,” she said. “This is a long-term proposition. We want to be about creating the next safety net, and 99 percent of our members realize this.”

    Ms. Horowitz said that despite the changes, freelancers could generally remain with their same doctors and networks. The plans, she added, offered a better system of doctors and hospitals, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, than comparably priced plans.

    By creating its own insurance company, she said, the Freelancers Union will have more freedom in developing plans especially for freelancers and will be able to hold down costs because it no longer has to pay a profit margin to outside insurers.

    “Anything new you start is going to be messy,” Ms. Horowitz said. “I regret that this causes people anxiety. The most I can do is really listen and learn and build.”

    Certainly many freelancers are happy about the new plans. Molly Pesce found herself in need of health insurance for her family of five after she lost her job as host of the television show “iVillage Live” after NBC canceled it. She was delighted to discover a Freelancers Union plan with premiums of $753 a month, compared with $1,675 a month for her old plan, under Cobra, and at least $1,000 a month for other plans.

    “It’s fantastic,” she said. “The Freelancers Union is a group of people who got together saying, ‘Maybe we can get cheaper group insurance.’ ”

    Rick Maiman, a freelance photographer, had heart surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital last June that cost $97,000. But all he had to pay out of pocket was $750.

    He grumbled that under the freelancers’ new health offerings, his premiums for the best plan would rise by $24 a month, to $455, and his out-of-pocket maximum would rise to $4,000. But he said those premiums were $4,000 a year lower than he could find elsewhere.

    “I believe they’re doing the best they can,” he said, adding that he was likely to stick with the union’s plan. “You dance with the one that brung you.”

    The Rockefeller Foundation’s Campaign for American Workers helped finance the new insurance company’s $17 million reserve because it supported Ms. Horowitz’s vision.

    “As the 20th century’s social contract frays, independent workers — contractors and freelancers who comprise almost one-third of America’s work force — need new tools and rules to help them access high-quality, affordable health care,” said Judith Rodin, the foundation’s president. “The Freelancers Union is pioneering these solutions.”

    When the Freelancers Union switched from HIP to Empire Blue Cross last year, some freelancers complained that they had to wait a half hour or more on the telephone to have their questions answered. Similar complaints have been heard since the new plans were unveiled last month.

    “The customer service has been terrible,” said Jenna Glazer, a writer who said that she planned to switch to another insurer. “I won’t trust this company with my daughter’s health because of its lousy track record last year.”

    Ms. Horowitz said she had tripled the size of the customer service staff, but said telephone waits were inevitable when hundreds of people called with questions about a new plan.

    Most of the complaints have been about the premium health plan, which she said was paying out far more money than it was receiving in premiums. To help maintain that plan’s solvency, the new insurance company raised premiums and deductibles, generating many complaints, including some from pregnant women who were unhappy that they would have to pay significantly more for diagnostic tests.

    Ms. Horowitz said that if other insurers had been sponsoring that premium plan, they would have simply shut it down, rather than try to sustain it.

    But Ms. Mesiano, the grant writer, said she has lost some faith. “We hear that it’s all about solidarity and bringing freelancers together, and all a sudden this change is presented to us as a great accomplishment without any recognition of the problems that a lot of this creates,” she said. “That will cause some consternation among people who have been your most loyal supporters.”

  40. Is the spinoff group for Insurance still in works or is it dead in the water?

  41. [continuing with the "only active thread" theme]

    Why did FU delete my mention that Mac Arthur "genius" Sara Horowitz makes $170 thousand/per annum? (From FU blog entry: "Attention Holiday Shoppers: Independent Locals Featured in Craft Fair")


    That fact violates "community guidelines"?

  42. Yes I am working on it ( and a few other projects as well like my business, putting together a website contract for a client, finding a hosting site with a big pipe capable of streaming a/v etc.) But I have not forgotten about this as I work on it every day. WE are very close to the right amount of people so the next step is to talk with accountants and lawyers. Any leads on this please email me!!!!!! I am drowning in work and lack of sleep!

  43. I think those of us who are interested in forming a group should speak asap. David sounds very busy - maybe we could help move this along by sharing tasks. Anyone else interested in scheduling a conference call soon with David?

  44. @Walter, who the fuck cares? It's a non-for-profit. All their record are in the open.

    There are bigger fish the fry out there like major bank executives and other finance people who destroyed the us economy with their greed.

    What are you trying to prove anyway? She would probably make quadruple what she makes in the open market. Besides, did you vote for her? get a freaking life and vote with your feet.

    And one more thing - I agree with their community guidelines. You are giving us freelancers a bad name by being childish and pathetic. This also applies to this blog, either be helpful or shut up.

  45. We all care you stupid f..king moron. Just listen to yourself, either be helpful or shut up. If you don't like the purpose of this blog then don't read it. Yes those bank execs screwed our economy does that mean that we should simply put up with getting screwed by some shit non-for-profit bitch?

  46. If her compensation is so transparent, why did she delete the dollar figure? This woman Horowitz is definitely on an ego trip. She probably "qvelled" at having her puss appear 2x in the NY Times article.

    What's really pathethic is her keeping this changeover under wraps until the last minute. It definitely has anal implications.

    To be helpful:, but you've got to get your asses in gear by the end of next week if you want to make the first of the year deadline.

    (And don't forget the liberal politicians that contributed to the "destruction" of the US economy.)

  47. I just read an article on the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog page concerning the Freelancers Insurance Co. which linked me to this blog. This is perhaps the most nonconstructive "effort" I have ever witnessed in my life. You people need to do some research on the salaries of the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in New York City...Get real!

  48. wsj health blog

    WSJ’s blog on health and the business of health. Blog Search:
    < The Price Is Right for Weight Loss -- Previous | SEE ALL POSTS FROM THIS BLOG | Next -- Cancer About to Become World’s No.[...] > December 10, 2008, 7:02 am
    Freelancers Union Takes Health Insurance In-House
    Posted by Vanessa Fuhrmans
    For years, Freelancers Union has provided health coverage to thousands of self-employed workers, particularly in New York, where you can’t ride the subway for long without seeing one of the group’s clever ads.

    The nonprofit organization has wielded its buying power to secure decent group rates from insurers on behalf of independent worker. Frustrating with rising premiums, though, Freelancer’s Union is now taking the plunge into the health insurance business.

    The Freelancers Insurance Co. is getting off the ground with a $17 million reserve pooled from a group of philanthropies including the Rockefeller Foundation, New York State Health Foundation and the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

    Executive Director Sara Horowitz, a former labor lawyer, says that by crafting plans around members’ feedback and outsourcing each part of the plan administration to the most efficient bidder, the company hopes to provide the most coverage bang for the buck. Sounds kind of like a freelance model to us.

    Anyway, the plans, initially available only in New York, allow members to tailor their coverage to include mental health, chiropractic treatment and other services.

    “What’s different is that we’re a carrier committed to staying with its customer base,” she says. “While we’re going to have to have revenues exceed expenses, we don’t have to have turbo-charged capitalism. We just have to have it pay for itself over time.”

    The company anticipates most of the 19,000 independent workers in New York currently with coverage through Freelancers will sign on the with the new company before open enrollment ends Dec. 31. The crummy economy is turning lots of people into involuntary freelancers, increasing the group’s ranks and potential insurance pool.

    Some members have grumbled, via a blog “Upset Freelancers Union Members,” about the new company’s higher premiums. Freelancers Union says there would have been increased in any case and that, over time, the group hopes to keep them under better control by going direct.

    Bonus Coverage: On the op-ed pages of the WSJ this morning, Ezekiel Emanuel of the NIH and Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) ask “Why Tie Health Insurance to a Job?” Their answer: It doesn’t make sense and Americans should have access to portable insurance made available through state or regional exchanges.

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    Comments (Click to track comments on this post)
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    I was wondering just the other day why health care costs had begun to go down.

    And now I know why.

    Comment by John Fembup - December 10, 2008 at 7:34 am
    But that assumes all the problem lies with the insurance companies while they are just one part of the equation. Major cost drivers are the service providers and some malpractice related…


    Comment by dr. Pandey - December 10, 2008 at 8:20 am
    The Freelancers Union new plan has proven to be very controversial among the organization’s membership. While many members may reluctantly sign up because they don’t have alot of other choices, that doesn’t mean they’re happy with Ms Horowitz or the Freelancers Union.

    Is this tiny new insurance company that they are setting up solvent enough to pay unexpectedly large claims? Can a small non-profit organization employ enough qualified staff people to administer claims and answer questions? Already members with questions about the new program who call in are place on hold for an hour or more and then get to speak with someone who is not well versed in the new program. Why aren’t the new rates charged by the new Company any better than rates charged by other, more reputable health insurance companies in New York? Ms Horowitz talks about future benefits to the Freelancer Union membership. Just what might those be? The Obama Administration and Congress are planning to revise the who health care system. Will the new program even be relevant after that?

    By creating the Freelancers Union Ms Horowitz did a wonderful thing. By creating the Freelancers Insurance Company and scrapping it’s more traditional health insurance plans, she seems to have made a huge mistake.

    Comment by WigWag - December 10, 2008 at 8:43 am
    @ WigWag and the other “hopeless idealists” out there: Keep dreaming for radical health care reform and put all of your faith in the Obama Administration and you will surely be disappointed. Hey I voted for him too!

    Comment by John T. Smith - December 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

  49. The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog posting and the New York Times article copied above both omit the most important drawbacks of FU's new FIC plans: deductibles and co-insurance imposed that would make actually USING the insurance for healthcare UNAFFORDABLE for most of us! Also, I could never get a straight answer from FU about the 4K max out-of-pocket: Their benefits summary for "PPO 1" plan says 4K max out-of-pocket applies to ONLY hospital facility. That means 20% co-insurance out-of-pocket spending for out-patient x-ray and diagnostic imaging for example has NO MAX! When I requested further information in writing to clarify, FU refused to provide. Also, FU's lack of transparancy leading up to this change, refusal to even negotiate with BCBS for 2009 and the obviously cruel last minute notice of the change are important points that were virtually ignored in both the NY Times article and the WSJ blog.

  50. Does anyone know if Atlantis HMO Health Plan is a good one? I got a $296 quote for insurance that covers the basics with no-coinsurance and no deductible. (Primary Dr and Specialist Dr Visits $20 co-pay, Hospital stay $500 co-pay...) The network includes Beth Israel Hospital and St. Vincents Hospital... Downside: it is an HMO so you can't go out of network. If the network is ok, that might not be so bad. The price sure is right. I'd feel better if I knew someone who has this insurance. Does anyone know someone who does? Would love to know if it's ok...

  51. Press Release for FIC Launch
    Prominent Philanthropies and Businesses Join Freelancers Union to Pioneer New Health Insurance Model
    The Rockefeller Foundation, New York State Health Foundation, Ford Foundation, New York City Investment Fund, Prudential Social Investment Program and the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Among Investors to Join Leading Advocate for Independent Workers to Launch Freelancers Insurance Company
    Contact: Suzanne Hallberg, 212-575-4545
    Linden Alschuler & Kaplan, Inc. Public Relations
    New Safety Net Created for One-Third of America's Workforce

    New York, NY, December 8, 2008 – With layoffs on Wall Street and in the corporate sector putting health insurance front and center in the national debate, a group of the country’s leading philanthropies and businesses has joined together with Freelancers Union, a national non-profit organization, to pioneer a new model for providing health insurance to independent workers. Rockefeller Foundation, New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), Ford Foundation, New York City Investment Fund, Prudential Social Investment Program, the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others, along with Freelancers Union, have contributed a pool of $17 million, in the form of grants and loans, to launch Freelancers Insurance Company, Inc. (FIC), which will offer new and innovative and flexible health insurance plans for eligible independent workers - initially in the New York area, but eventually spreading to other locations as well.

    Freelancers Union has offered health insurance plans to members previously, but those were commercial plans operated by traditional carriers. As a freestanding insurance company, FIC enables members to select plans that are custom designed based on their needs, as opposed to buying whatever plans happen to be commercially available and may be subject to cancellation based on the insurer’s financial reasoning. FIC offers five health insurance plans that have been approved by the New York State Insurance Department. The philanthropic investors have taken an entrepreneurial approach to support the nation’s evolving workforce and provided significant support to make the launch of FIC possible.

    “As more and more people take on non-traditional work arrangements, they need a new way to come together for the benefits customarily delivered through employers, including health insurance. Through the Portable Benefits Network, Freelancers Union has successfully provided benefits attached to the individual, rather than the employer, to thousands of previously uninsured workers, for the past eight years,” said Sara Horowitz, executive director of Freelancers Union. “We are overjoyed about the launch of Freelancers Insurance Company because of the flexibility it affords us in customizing health insurance plans, now that we are not at the whim of the insurer. This is one giant step in a long, thoughtful effort to create a new safety net for the nation’s independent workforce.”

    “As part of the Governor’s Partnership for Coverage, we have been working on significant reforms to make quality, affordable health insurance available to all New Yorkers,” said Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo. “As these broad reforms continue to be developed and implemented, Freelancers Insurance Company offers the promise of a lower-cost health insurance alternative for independent workers right here, right now. We look forward to continue working with Freelancers as this exciting experiment unfolds.”

    The more than 19,000 New York-based people who are currently insured by Empire BlueCross BlueShield through Freelancers Union have been provided with information to participate in open enrollment, which began on November 11, 2008 and will end on December 31, 2008. Thus far, the rate at which members are enrolling under the new plans is outpacing previous enrollment periods for Freelancers Union. The carrier switch to FIC will be seamless and while members will be provided with new cards and improved plans, they will be able to continue to use their current doctors and health care providers under the BlueCard PPO® provider network. As membership increases and the organization continues to evolve, FIC will annually survey its members on their needs to ensure that the benefit offerings remain suitable for this growing constituency group. The independent workforce, defined as freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, temps, part-timers, contract workers, contingent employees and the self-employed, is currently comprised of more than 42 million workers across the nation.

    “The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support the groundbreaking work of the Freelancers Union as a part of its $70 million Campaign for American Workers,” said Judith Rodin, president of the Foundation. “As the 20th century’s social contract frays, independent workers – contractors and freelancers who comprise almost one-third of America’s workforce – need new tools and rules to help them access high-quality, affordable health care. The Freelancers Union is pioneering these solutions and helping to weave a 21st century economic safety net.”

    “Viable ideas for expanding health insurance coverage are rare; this initiative is an excellent example of innovation that could spread insurance coverage to thousands of workers statewide,” said NYSHealth President and CEO James R. Knickman. “The New York State Health Foundation has its roots in earlier efforts to make health care more affordable and accessible, and we are committed to reducing the number of uninsured through initiatives like this one.”

    At the present time, FIC offerings are only available to eligible independent workers in the New York metropolitan area. However, Freelancers Union offers health insurance to independent workers in 30 additional states through Golden Rule, and dental insurance in all 50 states through The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. Freelancers Union is currently identifying additional states in which it may launch the Freelancers Insurance Company model. Freelancers Union has more than 93,000 members nationwide. In addition to insurance and benefits packages, members enjoy professional discounts, networking opportunities, educational workshops and advocacy initiatives to improve the political and economic climate for this growing sector of the workforce.

    For further information on Freelancers Insurance Company, eligibility requirements and the specific plans offered, visit

    For further information on Freelancers Union, visit

    Following is a list of Web site addresses for each of the philanthropies or businesses that have made contributions to make the launch of Freelancers Insurance Company, Inc. possible:

    The Rockefeller Foundation:
    New York State Health Foundation:
    Ford Foundation:
    New York City Investment Fund:
    Prudential Social Investment Program:
    The Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: News
    Tues Dec 9 4:30 pm
    December 2008 E-News

    Tues Dec 9 1:00 pm
    Enrollment in FIC - A Progress Update

    Mon Dec 8 4:00 pm
    Press Release for FIC Launch

  52. 9 December 2008Enrollment in FIC - A Progress UpdateSince Freelancers Insurance Company (FIC) launched on November 11th, over 8,000 people have enrolled in an FIC plan, and only a few have chosen to pursue other options. These enrollment rates represent an 84% increase from the same time period in 2007. In creating FIC, Freelancers Union has been supported by some of the leaders in philanthropy: organizations who want to create a long term, sustainable model to ensure independent workers aren’t left out in the cold. FIC would not have been possible without their support. Like Freelancers Union, they believe that it’s time to create a social safety net that reflects the realities of today’s increasingly mobile and independent workforce.
    “The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support the groundbreaking work of the Freelancers Union as a part of its $70 million Campaign for American Workers,” said Judith Rodin, president of the Foundation.
    “Viable ideas for expanding health insurance coverage are rare; this initiative is an excellent example of innovation that could spread insurance coverage to thousands of workers statewide,” said NYSHealth President and CEO James R. Knickman.
    "FIC promises to be an important resource to help the city’s technology sector transition from large financial institutions to the entrepreneurial sector," said Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the New York City Investment Fund, the economic development arm of the Partnership for New York City.
    Because freelancers work from job to job and project to project, Freelancers Union is in a unique position to construct the quintessential portable health plan. As the economy worsens, many more workers will turn to freelancing, making this model important, not just to provide needed resources for individual freelancers, but also to be a part of the architecture of the next social safety net.

  53. I find it very interesting that Freelancers Union is posting on this blog - the last 2 comments above are obviously from them and are a blatant attempt to drown us out and minimize our valid disgust. THE FACTS: They secretly planned and suddenly unveiled at the end of the year, FAR INFERIOR insurance at higher prices! Congratulations FU: you've gone from being our savior to creating 8,000+ UNDERINSURED freelancers at risk on your plans - Just one serious illness or accident away from ruin!! The rest of us (far more people than FU's press and postings admit) who bothered to analyze your inferior plans and who did the research and the math, have concluded that your plans are terrible, and that we can't afford to pay to risk so much. So we find ourselves, (for the first time in several years) not insured as of January 1st and in a desperate year-end quandry!!! In Vegas terms, FU went from negotiating with the casino on our behalf to BECOMING the casino. Shame on you Freelancers Union!!!!!

  54. continued: It's also obvious that the increased FU enrollment since last year touted in their post is the direct result, not of providing better insurance but of 1) creating a last minute desperate year end scrambling... 2) FU's advertisements all over the city... nice to have such a big advertising budget. 3) FU has so many more members now than a year ago because the 2008 BCBS plans attracted so many new members who are now stuck in this bait and switch travesty! 3) We are living through a deepening economic crisis and people are losing their jobs, so of course many are signing on for insurance because they are suddenly without coverage and heard that FU's 2008 plans were great. Boy are they in for a surprise when they get around to reading the policy they actually signed on for. I predict a lot of folks will leave FU next year... between the high prices and the signicantly lowered coverage.

  55. It's also probably significant that FU has NOT revealed the following comparison in any press that I've seen: how many members were enrolled in their BCBS plans as of November compared with the 8000 who have signed on for FIC 2009? I bet that missing information would demonstrate a significant drop in enrollees! (I remember hearing that there were approximately 19,000 members in FU this fall, so it's probably telling that less than half of membership have signed on for their 2009 offerings.)

  56. THANK YOU TO THE MEMBER WHO SET UP THIS SITE! The comments shared here have been so helpful to me as I try to navigate through this debacle.

  57. FU didn't post the above, I did, copied from their website--just thought it was intereting stuff to have (sorry to not have made that clear . . . )

  58. Concerning the FIC enrollment numbers, I've seen Sara quoted in at least two places saying that enrollment is ahead of last year at the same time. However, it seems to me that she's comparing apples to oranges: open enrollment last year began in the first week of December, and this year it began in the second week of November. (And then there's the fact that a number of us have enrolled in an FIC plan but are still looking for another plan that will better meet our needs. I don't think many people last year were re-enrolling but still actively looking for another plan, but I could be wrong....)


  59. Don't kid yourself. Even if enrollment is lower Sara will say it's higher. Propaganda pure and simple. The same way she says just a few people have complained. She thinks if people see others enroll they'll do the same. She's a liar...haven't you figured that out?

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