It doesn’t seem to matter how much the freelancing sector of the American economy is able to grow — freelancers, regardless of specific trade, have always had a tough time finding affordable insurance plans. Many freelancers, left with few choices regarding health insurance, opt for plans offered through the Freelancers Union.
Starting in 2015, however, thousands of freelancing Americans will find that their insurance options have changed — some for the better, and some for the worse.
The Freelancers Union, in particular, is making quite a few changes to its health policies. Instead of offering its own insurance policy (the Freelancers Insurance Co.), the Union will reportedly be partnering with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to the NY Daily News.
The policy change will affect over 20,000 working freelancers, most of whom live in the NYC region. The Daily News notes that Empire policy premiums start at $392 per month, but that Union members will have access to small subsidies through the Freelancers Union. Although the new premiums may still be higher than what most freelancers would prefer to pay, the new policy includes coverage at two medical centers with no co-pays, as well as free health classes for yoga and meditation.
Not to be outdone, a startup company over in Brooklyn called Storyhunter is also planning on making changes to its insurance policies for freelance employees. The company’s goal is create easy connections between freelance correspondents around the globe and legitimate new publications, both domestic and foreign.
The real game-changer in Storyhunter’s business model, however, is that it plans to provide health coverage for every freelancer working through the organization — even those who are reporting from high-conflict regions.
Storyhunter co-founder and CEO Jaron Gilinsky explained that since freelance journalists are willing to “[risk] their neck for one of our stories,” providing basic health insurance is the least that the company can do.
Although it’s too early to tell if either of these changes will be effective in the long run, the fact that these changes are being discussed at all is a step in the right direction. All too often, freelance workers can’t afford to pay for health insurance. They end up paying for doctors’ visits and prescription medications out-of-pocket, going without the care or medicines they need, or even turning to sketchy online pharmaceutical stores that sell unapproved — and possibly very dangerous — prescription drugs.
Even if both insurance plans end up being revised (or replaced entirely) after 2015, it’s certainly a good sign that private companies and major news outlets alike are paying attention to the health of freelancers, especially since the freelance job sector is expected to grow from approximately 7% of the workforce to 16% by 2020.