Thursday, November 20, 2008

An open letter to Freelancers Union

To all FU members.

We are circulating the letter below in an attempt to give a clear voice to our concerns.
If you agree with the content of this letter, PLEASE SIGN WITH YOUR FIRST NAME in the comment section of this post.

Please also circulate this letter to as many interested parties as you can. Including FU members, the press, and the underwriters of FIC, (including 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.)

Wishing you all good health.

Upset FU members.
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Dear Ms. Horowitz,

We, members of Freelancers Union, were seriously adversely affected by the recent changes in health care insurance offered by the Freelancers Union. We object to this move in the strongest terms.

We find the reasons offered to these changes to be vague and unsatisfactory. Unclear future benefits are promised in return for very real and immediate disadvantages.

We are further dismayed that no negotiation with Empire BC/BS has taken place to compare their terms with those of FIC side by side.

We find unacceptable the way new members, even those who signed on with Freelancers Union just a few days before the announcement, were not warned by FU reps that the plan they have joined is facing termination.

We object to the fact that there was no consultation with members regarding this move.

We doubt the ability of FIC to serve its members. Since the announcement, it has been almost impossible to get responses to specific questions about details of coverage, either by phone or by e-mail.

We are also offended by what we perceive as insincere talk about the "exciting, important, and meaningful effort," "solidarity" and the mention of "a survey" that had no mention in it of a new health insurance. Such talk diminishes the reservoir of good will that FU enjoys.

We would like to know why the underwriters of FU and FIC allowed this to go through.

We would like FU to quickly address the following:

  • Whether you would be willing to negotiate now with Empire BC/BS for a benefit plan similar to the 2008 plan.
  • And if you can't or won't, why not?
  • If you can’t re-negotiate now with Empire BC/BS, would you allow your team to help us, as a group, to find a plan similar to last year's Empire BC/BS, especially the Direct POS plan, outside of the umbrella of FU.

In Sara Horowitz's own words, we "believe in the radical notion of fairness: we should all have access to the social safety net, regardless of how we work."

156 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you feel like certain issues haven’t been addressed, despite my efforts to respond to your concerns. In addition to our e-mail communications and information on the Freelancers Union website, you are probably aware that I invited members from this blog to meet with me personally. I asked that you designate a group of people who can come to our office and talk about anything that’s on your mind. I have yet to hear from anyone. As you also undoubtedly know, we have scheduled a series of webinars where all members can have their questions answered. I hope you will join one of them.

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  2. We would love to all come to meet with you, as many as could make it at a mutually convenient time--say a Sunday afternoon to maximize people's opportunities to make it? We've posted this all along, and to you, how can a small group speak on the fly for all of us; we don't even know each other... no time to organize or even understand this horribly complicated new model of health insurance... help Sara!

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  3. Please Sara, we need official New York State assurances in writing that if you go under we are not responsible for medical bills FU would otherwise have paid

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  4. I'd like to repeat member suggestions that FU have an Open Meeting for all members where as many voices can be heard. How about Sunday November 27 at 2:00?

    As many have already said, this site represents an adhoc group, not a leadership. As independent workers, we have various schedules and responsibilities: when we don't work, we don't get paid. This limits our ability to organize, or even to attend the webinars which are being held during traditional work hours.

    Rather than see the folks who are critical of the change in benefits as adversaries, is it possible for you to see this as an opportunity for FU to work collaboratively with its membership that FU purports to represent and advocate on behalf of? We would like our voices--individual and collective--to be heard. If we are all in this together, why can't you take a moment to listen? Not make assumptions, not try to "fix", not claim solidarity, not represent what you clearly no longer know--just listen, and perhaps learn enough to help all of us.

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  5. I suggest you email the above letter to all members of FU and invite all of them to come to this open house--unfortunately I think Sun Nov 30 is Thanksgiving weekend, but perhaps it's an emergency option; or better yet, Sunday Nov 23rd at 2, which might be what the above meant. Don't assume because you haven't heard from others that they're not shocked... the ones I know personally are swamped and say they'll look at it this weekend (and then they too will be furious)... Something's got to be done quickly; suggest this Sunday at 2pm for a start, if fu isn't to go down in flames...

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  6. [to ms H,

    unfortunately many of the more vocal people who should be signing this (or would otherwise have loved to participate in an open meeting) seem to have moved on to mediabistro or fractured atlas... I'm sure they will never forget FU however...]

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  7. MIke

    You have to be able to get us a real ins company. Oxford Hip BC/BS anything with out Hospital deductable

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jen

    And a response to Sara's post above: It is nice that your are inviting a group to travel to your office to talk, but isn't the point of the blog on the FU site to disperse information to the membership? Why would a small face to face meeting be needed - couldn't you just respond to the questions on your blog? I know that's a lot of writing, but it would be very much appreciated, and if fairness and solidarity are really still part of FU's mission, you will see it as a worthwhile effort. If we are to accept an inferior health plan, the reasons have to be really, really good.

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  9. Sara, maybe you underestimate the havoc that this change switch created in our lives.

    My wife is pregnant. If we follow you to FIC, this is what we are looking at:
    Her monthly payment will go up by $70 per month.
    Her hospital stay will go up from $750 to $4000.
    Diagnostic imaging (such as ultrasound and other standard tests), currently covered under Empire BC/BS, will now have to be specially approved, and be subject to 20% co –insurance, with no maximum.
    Her annual maximum coverage, currently unlimited (in-network) will now be capped at $2,000,000, and the lifetime maximum is now $5,000,000 (instead of unlimited).

    This is a set back of many thousands of dollars, and for much less insurance.

    Additionally, we have every reason not to trust FIC. We have not been able to get clarifications as to specific details of coverage. Your reps did not know what a ultrasound was, and whatever answers were provided, were later contradicted in blog posts. An e-mail we sent 6 days ago with some questions was not responded to. This is radically different from the service we got form Empire BC/BS, or our previous insurer, where phone inquiries were answered by experienced and knowledgeable representatives, and we knew where we stood.

    Worst yet. We only signed up with you three weeks ago. We were insured previously with a stable group that offered terms that, while not as good as Empire BC/ BS terms, were far better than what you now offer under FIC. However, since none of you reps warned us about your plans (we called many times before signing up with you), we can no longer go back to our previous group, since they have a one year waiting period before covering a pregnancy.

    Our options are severely limited, and we have to decide on this grave issues in a very short time span, and also without having a chance to research and prepare beforehand. We thought that we were insured, and can now worry about the many other things that bringing a child to the world entails. But all this changed as of last week.

    All this stands in stark contrast to what FU purports to stand for. Whatever were the reasons for this move, we feel that we have been used as peons in some unclear grand agenda.

    There is no objection to meeting with you. Others commented about the difficulty of organizing a group on such a short notice.
    Our great concern is to find out if you can remedy this situation.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Speaking for myself, Ms. Horowitz, what's bothered me most of all has been the false claims and happy talk. Specifically you claim that the 2009 FIC PPO 1 "most closely resembles the 2008 Empire POS," but clearly it doesn't, it most closely resembles the 2008 Empire EPO 2. The out-of-network coverage is only partial, but more importantly, the in-network coverage is subject to coinsurance as well as annual and lifetime limits. In other words, you are clearly offering an inferior plan and claiming it's comparable to the superior one. If you'd just said that you were offering something lesser, and explained why you had to do it, you might not have caused as much anger, if, as Jen says, your reasons were really, really good. But you've treated us as if we're stupid, and that's destroyed any reservoir of goodwill you'd accumulated. I'd like to echo the above calls that you designate a time to invite FU members to meet with you. Meanwhile I'll be searching for an insurance plan that actually is comparable to the one you're dropping.

    Josh

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  11. Why not post first and last name? Greg Finkelstein.

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  12. This is Janet. I am making some attempts to contact media....this is not my best strength ( I'm a health care provider). Does anyone have any contacts for some publicity and support?

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  13. way ahead of you. http://gawker.com/5094251/freelancers-freaking-out-about-their-union-health-plan

    ReplyDelete
  14. I suggest last names are not posted, as I think retribution is not beyond FU (they have censored the blog a little...) I really just don't trust them... not trying to sound overly paranoid, but honest (SH may feel the great social ends justify the slash and burn means)

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  15. As a cancer survivor, I have been through hell with several health insurance plans and companies. BCBS has treated me the BEST, so far.
    I have spent months negotiating (and finally got approval) with BCBS to cover my specialists' appointment in Jan, '09 as "in-network" in Boston. Just as they finally agreed to cover it as in-network, I am told it is all invalid due to this unexpected and shocking change. I am outraged, after 30 years as an ind. contractor and artist, to be "told" by FU what I must do for my health care. This is NOT what I signed up for! IT REALLY FEELS LIKE A SCAM, VERY MANIPULATIVE. It was bad enough when you dropped HIP, soon after I had joined, and forced everyone to a more expensive plan. Furthermore, I travel extensively and NO PLANS offered by you meet my needs for out-of-netwoek coverage. Joan

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  16. I just saw Sara's post. I am shaking my head in disbelief that she actually came to this blog and posted and DIDN'T RESPOND TO THE OPEN LETTER!!!

    I can't find the words to express how stunned I am.

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  17. Sara,

    You need to fix this.

    I am going to move to an employer sponsored plan.

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  18. Small nit: you might want to fix "Freelnacers" in title.

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  19. I see that another anonymous FUer has already posted the link to the Gawker article (http://gawker.com/5094251/freelancers-freaking-out-about-their-union-health-plan).

    But I'm chiming in to urge everyone to send this to everyone they know -- especially their local elected officials and any media contacts you may have.

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  20. The NY Times is investigating. I have contacted some others - anyone want to try the Voice and the Daily News?

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  21. Ok guys, I just got off the webinar, it was actually very useful; I suggest everyone sign up for the two scheduled for next week. SH is a decent person, I believe, just has NO sense on how this is being experienced on the ground... NY State would pick up if the 2.5/5 million maximum was hit if you bounced to them; they do that to protect the viability of the group... the only coinsurance that isn't capped, again, is outpatient diagnostic services...

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  22. She also encourages direct questions and or complaints about membership services, or other stuff, to sara@freelancersunion.org

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  23. Also, they have a "kitty" of I think $17 million dollars and mandatory reinsurance with munic ray (?) So far 2000 people have signed on for the new plans (maybe 2,500 w/dependants), a high, early rate for them, out of about 19,000 current insurance holders with them

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  24. I agree with the above letter. There was an FU response to claims I was making about lack of facility coverage. However, the response on a blog is not contractual. When I spoke to FIC with questions, they told me something else. Where is a clearly written, specific and detailed contract that details what the exact coverage is and what words mean?
    When I spoke with a hospital billing department to get costs of things like x-rays and MRI's I was told that "facility" functionally meant the bed not services.

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  25. She mentioned in the Webinar that FU has a "retirement" plan in the works for next year. Are you kidding me? Another Freelancers Union fiasco?

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  26. During the Webinar the participants were treated with Ms Horowitz' credentials. A degree from here, a degree from there. If you ask me, this is nothing more than "book larnin'". This mess proves the Peter Principle: one rises to his (her) level of incompetence.

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  27. Webinar disheartening. So it's "her way or the high way." Nothing in between. I learned no specifics other than her certainty that POS plan design would have "changed." In terms of this new company, what did she know and when did she know it? Before she sent out that inane, disingenuous survey were these changes already decided on? Obviously, they didn't want our input.

    God forbid any of us needs more than the maximum, what is this NYS alternative to transition onto that several of you have talked about?

    I "raised by hand," but wasn't called on--using words like viability and sustainability are fine as long as you include affordability.

    Why can't FU post a new blog where questions are asked and actually answered?

    I just knew she would minimize our issues by comparing all of them to last year's clamor.

    So is this it?

    Yoav and Mirit, I feel even worse for you than I feel for myself.

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  28. Ms Horowitz mentioned that Blue Cross' POS plan was not "sustainable". Let me translate that for you. Last year during the HIP-Blue Cross changeover, members "chattered" away that now one could see a specialist without a primary care doctor's referral. So what happened was, if you had a pimple, under HIP you'd live with it. If you now had that pimple with Blue Cross, you went to a dermatologist. And of course, he charged Blue Cross 100-200 bucks. And this went on and an throughout 2008 until the Blue Cross folks said "Hey wait a minute, these freelancers are like kids going wild in a candy store." That's why there's no Blue Cross POS available.

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  29. The NYS alternative is simply the NY State individual plans, which, because NY is relatively progressive, have to take you with no pre-exising condition clauses if there is not a break of more than 62 days in coverage (I would suggest safer to have no break...); so if you were very sick and approaching maximum, you would simply fill out the forms and transition to NY State's pricey HMO options (which have no lifetime cap)

    (Footnote, probably to do the things she's done there has to be an element of lack of emotionalism... I also would have profound problems with signing up Yoav & Mirit and letting them give up their coverage when they are pregnant (can't go back w/o preexisting coverage) That is my main issue with all of this as well as the false presentation of the plans--they are not great and it's not right to pretend they are

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  30. Sara, I simply could not understand the open enrollment materials that you e-mailed Freelancers Union members on November 11, especially that crazy quilt of a chart that you call a "Summary of Benefits." No doubt you, as a MacArthur "genius," think that makes me stupid and uninformed, or at least that I am a careless, lazy reader. But would most reasonable people think that I am stupid and uninformed, or even that I am careless and lazy?

    I am not, I admit, a genius -- much less a MacArthur one. But please consider:

    *I was a 99th percentile kid all through elementary school and high school and always scored especially high on reading comprehension tests.
    *I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at a Seven Sisters college and attended an Ivy League graduate school.
    *I have more than 20 years of experience working full-time or part-time on benefits communications at Fortune 500 companies.

    If someone like me cannot understand your "communications," does it occur to you that you may indeed have done an exceptionally poor job of communicating the new plans to the members of the Freelancers "Union"? Or maybe even that your "communications" are about as close to real communications as your "union" is to a real union?

    I suppose I should not be surprised that the enrollment materials are so dreadful. Ever since I joined the Freelancers Union health insurance plan four and a half years ago, I have been distressed by the poor quality of the communications, which have been going from bad to worse. In the fall of 2004, after attending a Freelancers Union reception, I was even foolish enough to volunteer to do some free communications consulting for you and was very rudely brushed off by your marketing manager, who basically told me that you did not need help from someone like me.

    May God preserve us from geniuses who tell the world how much good they are doing when they are actually wreaking havoc in people's lives! I just wish that you would read Yoav's comments above when you go to bed tonight -- if you read his words and pondered them in your heart, I simply do not understand how you would be able to sleep one wink.

    I have very real concerns now about the new plan, which will leave me underinsured and in danger of going bankrupt. I also have enormous concerns about the viability of the Freelancers Insurance Company, which you are starting in the midst of the worst economic downturn of my lifetime (I am 61). Yet, sadly, I may have no option but to remain with your plan and learn to live with much more risk while I pray that I stay healthy.

    I am especially sad that I learned about the potentially disastrous changes in my healthcare coverage one week after the election, when I still felt the glow of Barack Obama's victory. Yet you are a darling of the liberal establishment, and that makes me begin to lose faith that we will ever see real change in this country. I am not married to a politician, so I can admit that I have not always been proud of my country.

    But I am proud to sign this petition and join my fellow members in real solidarity, not the false "solidarity" that you are peddling.

    Carolyn

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  31. For new members... we are just SOL.

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  32. I hope the MacArthur was awarded to her only on her marketing ability.

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  33. Sara has stated her opposition to natioanlized health care - I feel suckered.

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  34. Yoav and his pregnant wife need to get that story to the Times, Post, Daily News and Huffpo! That's a f'ing travesty! But in all seriousness, that's an angle a reporter needs, everything else is too vaguely shitty. Their story is concretely shitty.

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  35. Personally, I hope that substantive comments, like Carolyn's, are also emailed directly to sara@freelancersunion.org

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  36. Nationalized Health Care? The panacea? Don't make me laugh. I wasn't born yesterday. Just wait until the US Medical Board of Commissars deny you that pill you need because it's "experimental" or you're "over the hill".

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  37. Oops, I got so carried away with my indignation that when I "signed" above I forgot that we're calling this an open letter, not a petition. So...I proudly sign this letter!

    And Anonymous, unfortunately Sara doesn't like to answer e-mails, at least not when they come from me, and I don't like to send e-mails that don't get answered, so I just address her via her blog and this one.

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  38. I got all excited when I first looked into FU, applied for insurance (bc i havent had any in a year) and was waiting patiently! Now, after I receive my approval and I'm all ready to sign up, I get the FIC email and am so utterly confused!!! So if I have a baby with the ppo2 plan, I will have to pay the $12,000 deductible BEFORE they pay anything! This makes no sense to me at all! What are these high premiums for? Who has tht kind of money to be paying such INCREDIBLE deductibles and co-insurances... Now, I'm left wondering, where can I find GOOD healthcare with GOOD coverage bc I'm not sure FU is it....

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  39. The Times is trying to contact Yoav and Mirit -Please check your email at upsetfu@gmail.com account. Yoav and Mirit you have my email if you want to contact me. - Julian

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  40. Also, there's a Hannah who's posted a fiery comment on the freelancers union blog, to the very last (earliest) of Sara's posts--she's in the same boat (pregnant)

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  41. Hannah Says:
    November 20th, 2008 at 3:47 pm
    I AM 34 WEEKS PREGNANT!!!!!! How can you do this to me!!!! I a have the Empire POS plan right now which covers maternity 100% and for labour and delivery it is just a case of a $750 dollar copay with the new plan that you are suggesting is a comparable plan I would have to pay a $1000 dollar deductible and then 15% co-insurance up to $4000 dollars not only that but the baby would also be subject to the same fees so in total I could be looking at a charge for labour and delivery of $8000!!!! How on earth is this comparable!!!! It’s downright disgusting that you can do this and we will have to look into the legalities of this situation as this can surely not be legal!! I am due on January the 2nd, how can you not have made any allowances for this scenario. I have so little time to do anything about this and maybe the stress of it will throw me into early labour, maybe I should pray for that under the circumstances so that I will be covered under the existing plan!!!!!! CAN”T BELIEVE YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!!!!

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  42. USA is the ONLY industrialized nation that does not have nationalized healthcare and we rank 37th in the world in the health of our citizens. As Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out we are paying more - almost double - under privatized insurance than other countries pay. Get real. I am so tired of this so-called freedom of healthcare choice freedom to worry about financial ruin and bad health?. Over 1/3 of personal bankruptcies are b/c of medical bills.

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  43. A different Chris Anonymous signing onto the letter

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  44. Anyone with soon to be concrete examples of differential and increased payments between FU and new FIC plans can email me @ julianmillernyc@gmail.com and I will try to pass it on to the contact at the Times for follow-up. CAVEAT - I will unable to respond to every email anyone sends. I am working more than full-time and trying to do several other things in addition to sorting through this FU mess.

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  45. I hope that the whoever writes up this story doesn't buy into the bullshit about how many people Sara has wrangled into signing up for the FIC. Factor in the zero time allowed to explore other options and the fear of a gap in coverage, and I'm sure many people will eventually drop their FIC for something even half-way decent.

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  46. This is what I learned today at the ‘webinar’

    FU will serve the interest of freelancers better, by offering them a worse health plan.

    FU felt it needed to own an insurance company, rather than subcontract health insurance to Empire BC/ CS.

    FU had to have as large a pool of members as possible in order to accomplish this feat.

    For the reason, FU couldn’t negotiate with BC/BS in parallel with starting a new company, because then most people might choose to stay with BC/BS, thereby diminishing the group joining the new plan.

    FU had to keep its plan a secret. Because if new members had an inclination that FU is planning to start a new company to replace the agreement with BC/BS, they would not join FU, thereby diminishing the group.

    Now that FU had accomplished what it planned, FIC needs to be solvent. So, in the name of solidarity, those who need health care most will be most hurt by this move.

    For those who were misguided into joining FU, and are now stuck, FU offers that life is indeed tough.

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  47. I feel like there's so much misinformation out there. Most members here are just ranting rather then helping.

    It feels like generating noise. This is not helpful. The topics are good but then there is no direction - everyone is all over the place. If newspapers or the news in general had found this story appealing they would've done something a long time ago. And even then, then what? Maybe I need to take my medication. It seems like we are cutting off the hand that is trying to feed us. The alternatives out there suck. The industry suck. Change sucks. We as people that are bitching without helping each other suck. And most of all I suck for even being here.

    Maybe I should get a fulltime job.. that would show myself.

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  48. Hannah, I hope so very, very much that your baby is born just a few days early and that everything goes so smoothly that you incur all of your maternity expenses while you and the baby are still covered under the current plan! And I hope the NYT also contacts you....

    I think I was born five days early, as a matter of fact -- 7lbs. 5oz. and no problems for either mother or child, even though 61 years ago I was delivered by a GP in a small hospital in the SF suburbs.

    The more that I read about people's problems, the more outraged I become. When I was the communications manager in a large company's benefits department, I heard a lot about people's problems through the people who handled customer service for our plans -- so I was aware of how important every word I wrote was because people were relying on their benefits and needed to understand them fully and receive sufficient notice. I couldn't always meet the expectations of anxious employees, but I certainly did a much better job than the FU people are doing. Since I've been covered under the Freelancers Union plan, I've been pretty insulated from the problems of the other plan participants and until now I was only aware of my own. What a mess we're in!

    Getting media coverage is important, but I think getting a lawyer might be a good idea as well. I've just begun to look into the possibility of finding a good lawyer who will work for us pro bono. I have some ideas, but I'm sure there have to be people out there who have better connections than I have. If anyone is interested, please send your ideas through an e-mail to upsetfu.blogspot.com and the e-mail will be forwarded to me.

    Even if we don't have a cause of action (I'm not sure we do), we desperately need someone who can explain to us such matters as our liability if FIC fails and there are unpaid claims. Also: What would happen to members who don't qualify for any other insurance plans, or only qualify for plans that are prohibitively expensive for them? Is it likely that New York State would step in and rescue the plan? I didn't attend the webinar today, so I don't know much about what Sara said (only what's posted above), but I do know that after all we've been through, I cannot trust her to give us the truth.

    (And then the sobering thought -- will any government, federal, state or city, be in a position to bail any company out by the time FIC goes under?)

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  49. Kathy P. signing. (And thanks to all who've not only signed, but shared their thoughts! Solidarity, kiddos!)

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  50. Gah! One other thing I just realized: in looking more closely at the HD 5,000 plan (figuring why not, since the much more expensive plan leaves you with $4,000 in exposure anyway), I saw that it's not HSA-compatible. What? What's the point of offering a low-cost, high-deductible plan if you can't link it to an HSA? This is a farce.

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  51. I've already contacted Fox News about this, and plan on calling up the Rockefeller Foundation (and others) tomorrow. I know they would not want something like this occurring with their money.

    I would encourage people to start contacting media outlets.

    I for one have the Direct POS plan and have been treated for a number of ailments over the past year. Based on my research it seems that if I switch to anyone else but FIC or somehow manage to transfer to another BC/BS shield group, that is the only way I'll be able to keep being treated for my problems.

    Please please please, everyone should contact these same organizations and let them know what is up.

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  52. I think that it would be a good idea to save this post for signatures on the open letter and associated comments. So until there's a new post, I'm going to post my additional comments about alternative plans and our ongoing struggle with FU on the November 19 post ("FIC alternatives"). I hope that some of you will be joining me there.

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  53. Ciao Freelancers Union. Thanks for the hours on hold and the countless dropped calls while being transferred. You've been a real pal. Sara, your little gem now sucks. Enjoy your paycheck.

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  54. I think that a number of us are making comments on all of the posts, so to see everything of interest, check the final comments on all of the posts.

    Carolyn

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  55. I spoke with the news desk at NY 1 (212-691-6397).I also emailed them at their request at desk@NYlnews.com. I haven't heard anything, may help if others contact as well.

    Janet

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  56. Please call and email Bill Moyers Journal b/c he gave Sara a lot of coverage - multiple shows. He is a very decent person so he should cover this.
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/about/feedback.html

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  57. I am having difficulty trying to sort this business out. And any changes I try to make online don't seem to stick.

    Mark

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  58. This needs to be renegotiated with BCBS immediately.

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  59. I initially signed up for the FIC, but only because I was unaware of other options. I am in now in the process of setting up Oxford through Media Bistro, and will drop FIC as soon as that is complete. I would however, stay with FU if they were to re-offer the Empire BCBS plan.
    Molly

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  60. Sara Horowitz, FU's Founder & Executive Director (and now, conveniently, President & CEO of the new Freelancers Insurance Company) was on the Brian Lehrer show this morning (unfortunately Brian himself was off today) discussing the topic of Freelancer security and I was not the only one to notice and point out the hypocrisy of it, considering how Sara and FU have just made many of us freelancers much less secure for 2009...

    My comments on the WNYC website can be found here: LDNY from 11201 ( http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episodes/2008/11/21/segments/116265#comment77259 ) and there are comments on Sara's own Blog (her posts feebly attempt to explain and excuse this horrible thing that they have done to their members) on the FU website: https://be.freelancersunion.org/blog/ -- if you feel as strongly as I do, please leave your comments on those sites, as well as here.

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  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  62. Joanne

    who feels ripped off by FU!

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  63. no, seriously Sara. why did you do this? clearly the plan are worst. so.....why? money?

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  64. Stacy
    Freelancer's Union has put me and my family in a serious bind with this horrendous update to its insurance offerings.

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  65. 1. John
    2. Frederick
    3. Janet
    4. Lucy
    5. Jude
    6. Laurie
    7. Nancy
    8. Mirit
    9. Janet
    10. Marlow
    11. Alexis
    12. Greg
    13. Susan
    14. Julian
    15. Josh
    16. Mike
    17. Jen
    18. Mai
    19. moonmarked
    20. Greg Finkelstein
    21. Karen
    22. Chris
    23. John
    24. Carolyn
    25. Nancy
    26. Cynthia
    27. Dee
    28. Walter
    29. Hannah
    30. Chris
    31. Kathy P.
    32. Debbie
    33. Rob
    34. Dayna
    35. David
    36. Janet
    37. Mark
    38. Molly
    39. Tia
    40. Steve
    41. Elda
    42. Christine
    43. Joe
    44. Joanne
    45. Christina
    46. Marie
    47. Joan
    48. marco
    49. Nicole
    50. Stacy

    ReplyDelete
  66. Evan

    I am pretty upset about the FIC plans. I recently dumped decent COBRA coverage (despite having 12 months of possible coverage left) for FU because I wanted their BC/BS plan. Now my options are either go with FIC's extremely risky, expensive garbage plans, or head over the MediaBistro to pay more than I used to (vs COBRA) for an inferior Oxford Liberty plan. Argh.

    My old COBRA plan was through Oxford, via the "better" Freedom network, and that still was quite disappointing... Oxford's web-based system for finding a new doctor is *terrible*, as it's lacking in critical details about various doctors, and also extremely out-of-date with regards to office phone numbers. If you need to find a new doctor w/ Oxford, prepare to spend hours and hours needlessly making phone calls.

    So I guess I'm stuck with FIC. Not happy about it though, these plans stink. Guess I should have stayed with COBRA. Wish FU had made a reasonable announcement about FIC farther in advance, instead of being so deceptive and uninformative.

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  67. I signed up for Empire BC/BS insurance through FU a few weeks ago, for coverage starting December 1st. I wish I had been notified in advance that my coverage under that plan would be good for only one month, and that afterwards I would be stuck choosing one of the new FIC plans, since I had already wasted an application fee and annual dues with FU in order to obtain coverage under Empire BC/BS.

    How sneaky and misleading can you get! As soon as the year of coverage I've already paid dues for is up, I'll be looking for another insurer.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Jenny

    This is just awful. I now have no choice but to consider getting just catastrophic insurance, to cover me in the case of hospitalization only, and risk paying regular doctor visits out of pocket (which could include pretty hefty costs if I get a health problem that doesn't require hospitalization!). Just awful!! My biggest question is, why is FIC a FOR-PROFIT company???

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  69. I would like to be a part of any BCBS group if we can form one here.
    Kathryn

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  70. I totally agree with the open letter.

    Janie

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  71. Aren't Union members supposed to have the right to vote regarding all Union issues? I don't recall there having been a vote to elect Sara as President...let alone completely change the health care plans 6 weeks before the end of the year.

    Yes, I know, Sara was "legally bound" not to mention that she was creating an insurance company, however, she could have waited until January 2009 to create it and given us all one year - on the current Blue Cross plan - to find out more about it and see if we were willing to adhere to it or find another plan.

    This would have been the mark of a genuinely concerned union president.

    And since Blue Cross would have raised its fees (like all insurance companies do every year)this would have played perfectly for Sara to announce the creation of the FIC to counter ever rising premiums, or some other wording as such...

    What was the rush for Sara to have to put this new for-profit insurance company into play this year? Forcing us out of our current insurance plan and trying to force us into the FIC smacks of strong-arm tactics that much more resemble corporate greed than anything else.

    Are there not Union By-Laws? And if there are, aren't they supposed to protect its members, not just the executives who have their own health-care insurance because they are salaried people not freelancers.

    If this is truly a Union, is this forceful action even legal for Sara to do without a vote?

    I believe the answer is that the FU is not really a Union at all, it's just another organization that gives access to semi-affordable health care (or, affordable semi-healthcare)and other semi-useful perks. To say that the FU is a union is far from the truth.

    Were this truly a union, Sara should have used our strength in numbers to strong-arm Blue Cross into giving us a better deal for 2009 whether through the new insurance company or not.

    I recall a similar action by Sara sometime earlier this year or in 2007 that caused a similar uproar from members. I forget the actual issue but I do remember that the members were incredibly angry and upset at the decision that Sara took without consulting us.

    I would have thought that she would have learned from this. Taking bold decisions may be the mark of a leader, but taking bold decisions without consulting the people it will affect only shows inconsideration - at best.

    As for myself, I have contacted an insurance broker who, in the space of 1 week, found and emailed me several different plans for sole proprietors. I hope to be able to sign up through Oxford for January 1, 2009 coverage. During that 1 week time, I sent an email to FU with questions regarding their PPO1 plan. I am still waiting for their reply...

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  72. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  73. Jane.

    The decrease in benefits combines witht he increase in cost proves that fu does not have the interests of its members at heart. I'm baffled that anyone would consider these plans acceptable - as freelancers we live in limbo already - now we've got to live with the fear of serious illness or accident leaving us hospitalized. So in addition to our living expense nut we're now going to need a 'insurance fund'. If anyone finds a group/plan that offers real insurance please post here.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Shouldn't it be illegal to call yourself (and brand yourself) a "Union" when you demonstratively lack every union-like trait?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_union
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NLRB

    signing,
    Andrew

    ReplyDelete
  75. I'm signing this open letter for all the reasons my fellow members have stated above, and for the unanswered emails to FU, for the FU phone system that hung up on me twice after I waited to speak with a billing rep for almost an hour each time... We have been royally screwed.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Yes, I too am upset about this plan. Not anywhere near as good as our Empire plan was.

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  77. While I appreciate the opportunity to purchase medical insurance at group rates, FU has done nothing but hose its members since I first signed up for medical in '07. HIP was wonderful, but without comment, FU decided to switch to BC/BS in '08. INCORRECT and/or INSUFFICIENT information on the FU website and/or from Customer Service caused me to pick the wrong plan (EPO #2), which actually cose MORE than the top-level plan when you took into account deductibles and ridiculous exclusions. Oh, and the folks at FU, instead of sending member info as we signed up, waited until 1/1/08 to send BCBS a data dump, so NONE of us was on the BCBS system. What does one do if one is near death on 1/1/08? Try asking your doctor to call BCBS to verify coverage when you don't have even a TEMPORARY card. And the description of coverage required by NYS law to be provided within 3 months of coverage? That didn't arrive until June. And now we're going through this AGAIN for '09. If the new plans are so great, why are the deductibles even higher, the benefits lower and the cost astronomically higher? Try calling Customer Service - IF you get thru to a live human, you're cut off after 29 minutes because the FU phone system is screwed up. And was still not fixed as of two weeks after open enrollment began. So when you call, if you can stand the interminable wait and don't get cut off before you reach a human (thus having to redial and start at the bottom of the waiting line again), the FIRST thing you need to do is provide the rep with your call-back number - make THEM call YOU back when you get disconnected. Moreover, although the FIC card is supposed to be accepted wherever BCBS is, I'll believe it when I need to go to my doctor for the first time in 2009. If FU's appallingly bad administrative capabilities are any indication, I fully expect to have a problem. If I had a place to purchase insurance elsewhere, I most certainly would. In the meantime, I'm paying for the top level plan to cover my butt and PRAYING that my boss' statement that he wants to hire me permanently as soon as possible in March comes to fruition, so I can kiss FU goodbye. Oh, and has anyone checked their insurance status online? If you're like me, they totally screwed THAT up as well - my LTD "disappeared" and took 2 weeks to fix, I have no access to my 2008 FU invoices, and even my billing had to be corrected. All of this is being blamed on the "previous administrator;" however, past experience leads me to believe that once again, FU has failed to do the job we're paying them to do with our dues. FU is a great idea, but the execution is shamefully bad.

    Sue

    ReplyDelete
  78. Anyone looked into the Oxford Plan offered by NASRO? http://www.nasro-co-op.com/health/state/ny/index.shtml

    ReplyDelete
  79. ed
    happy to add my name - i think that makes more than the dozen or so la horowitz claimed had complained in today's NYT;
    however the only real answer to her and the insurance companies is a european-style national health system paid out of taxes - as a european, i have never been able to understand why americans have not demanded the same.

    ReplyDelete
  80. sean mcdevitt

    now looking for an alternative to freelancer's union

    ReplyDelete
  81. Rachel

    Big thanks to the people who are doing this! FURIOUS at the situation for the all the reasons you put forth.

    Specifics: took a long phone call, two emails and a week to get the following answer about coverage of (preventive care) colonoscopy:

    "depends on where it is done. If it takes place in a doctor's office it will be covered under your doctor office visit copay. If, however, it takes place in a hospital you will be subject to your facility deductible and coinsurance."

    This was the case with HIP and we had to cancel my husband's colonoscopy because it would have meant at least $3000 out of pocket. As far as I have been able to ascertain, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A "DOCTOR'S OFFICE COLONOSCOPY." IT IS A FACILITY PROCEDURE.

    However, it was totally covered by the Empire POS plan. So here again, we are moving backward. It's unacceptable.

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  82. 31 weeks pregnant with twins. Feel I have no choice but to sign with FIC as lets face it I have one big preexisting condition. But extremely unhappy. The representative had no idea about how delivery would be billed, and most of the answers given contradicted what my obstetrician's office said about how things are billed.
    Sara you have left me in a very difficult position, with no written confirmation about how things will be covered.
    As I will almost certainly need a cesarian, my hospital stay will be $4000
    Or if your representative is right the babies will be billed as well and the whole stay could cost $8000.

    Sivan

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  83. Sivan,

    I don't believe the pre-existing clause would affect you as long as you don't have too long a break in your coverage (63 days or less?) per (progressive) New York state law

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  84. Was so excited to switch over from my Cobra coverage to Freelancers Union. It took 4 emails, 2 long phone calls and the space of 6 weeks for the approval to come through.

    Even the idea of FIC seemed okay - until I actually looked at the plans. What happens for those of us who travel extensively? (High copay)
    What happens if we g- forbid need to go to hospital in network(High copay)
    What does the preventive care look like (Unclear from reps)

    What now? I'm in if you can get a group plan with BCBS.

    AS

    ReplyDelete
  85. Lisa.
    I agree with the open letter. These prices are ridiculous! My husband and I have two children and the increase in price and reduction in coverage is horrible. First we had HIP, which covered most things, now, even after paying 877.00 per month, we have about $5,000 in medical bills between my hospital charges for delivering our son, and my child's hospital stay. Not including the deductible for prescriptions, which was outrageous. Please keep us informed, and thank you for your efforts.

    thanks,
    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  86. Allison. Add me to the list for the letter.

    I think right now most of us are too overburdened with the task of trying to get on another plan for Jan. 1 (I'm moving over to Media Bistro's Oxford plan. Though the Atlantis plan is cheaper it seems their network is pretty limited--anyone have prior experience with either of these insurers?)

    In any case, once we've dealt with the immediate crises, it seems to me that we should look into whether or not we have grounds for a class action lawsuit. I'm also planning to write the NY Times about their article, which I think was not terribly balanced. There are a lot more of us who are unhappy with this change than that article indicated.

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  87. Sorry I didn't know about this sooner, to voice my displeasure with FU and FIC, which I plan on no longer being part of. This is not a union, this is a get rich scheme at the expense of a middle class that is shrinking into oblivion. This is not insurance, it is more like extortion - pay more (to no limit, with the best and most expensive FU plan) get less.
    Whatever good intentions you MAY have had, Sara, you really messed up other peoples' lives for your own gain. You asked for our help to grow FU, only to stab us in the back.

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  88. How about it, Sara? DID YOU READ THROUGH THESE COMMENTS? EVERYONE AGREES -- there are no excuses for the financial, medical and emotional HAVOC and DISTRESS that you have caused to thousands, not "just a few" of us! SHAME ON YOU!!

    ReplyDelete
  89. I find myself without health insurance as the new year rolls in, thanks to FU/FIC.
    like many, FU/FIC left me and my partner scrambling for other insurance options. However, our insurance broker isn't able to get us coverage for 1st Jan 09, although at first we were told otherwise.
    My broker already has my insurance check and the annual LIA membership fee since early December.
    Now I'm anxiously waiting to the hear back on what the latest is with our health insurance application. I'm told because of the holidays, case filings are taking longer than usual.

    I assume many find themselves in a similar situation without health insurance because of FU's late announcement as a insurance company, its over priced and under insured plans just few weeks ahead of the busiest holiday season of the year.
    FU/FIC left us with almost no time to make informed decisions and switch to other insurance companies.

    I'm curious to hear what others think about filing a class action lawsuit against FIC/FU for putting members
    at risk. Do you think there is a ground for a such a lawsuit?

    Is there a legal scholar or anyone who knows legal matters who could advise?

    Hope everyone at Upset Freelancers Union Members a happy new year and good health.
    V

    ReplyDelete
  90. The thing that most disturbs me is the new copay of 15 or 20% (depending on plan) for hospital admissions, that was subtly added in and could amount to $28,000 or more a year (not including premiums) if both myself and my husband are hospitalized in the same year. This is not my idea of affordable health insurance. Plus the added insult of a letter announcing the great new insurance company formed by Freelancer's Union.

    ReplyDelete
  91. Here's a new scam, borrowed from predatory finance:
    The Freelancers Union fails to bill you, then informs you it has "cancelled" your health insurance, supposedly due to "late" payment-- the company has already cashed your check, mind you -- unless you pay $40 to "restore" it.
    Report such tactics to your state insurance department, attorney general and state senator - then run!

    ReplyDelete
  92. Is this still live in any way? Things are still very bad---the extraordinarily high hospital co-pays/co-insurance and other increases have made what started out to be relatively affordable health insurance a nightmare---I'm afraid to actually go to a doctor! Thank God I'm healthy, but if I got sick, I would have been better off staying with my old insurance that was twice as expensive as FU, but had low co-pays. When a hospitalization could cost me $15-20,000 instead of the $600 other plans have as a cap, that's scary.

    ReplyDelete
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  95. Sounds as though hundreds of complaints have been filed against the FIC and the FU with state attorneys general and insurance departments. Has anyone heard of action?

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
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