Freelancers Union to expand health insurance offerings

The number of independent workers is on the rise. That’s good news for professionals who want to control their own varied and interesting careers, but if you’re based in the U.S. being independent also comes with some significant benefits headaches, with how to obtain affordable health insurance primary among them.

But if independent workers live in New York, New Jersey or Oregon, they will soon have a new option when it comes to obtaining coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare to its detractors) and the Freelancers Union. The organization, which currently has 170,000 members, was recently awarded $340 in low or no-interest federal loans through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to launch “consumer operated and oriented plans,” or Co-Ops that are open to everyone, including independent workers who typically struggle to find affordable coverage. The new plans will be non-profit and will be run by a local CEO and board of directors in each state.

The Co-Ops are set to begin enrolling members in the fall of next year and to begin offering benefits in January 2014. The Freelancers Union already covers around 23,000 workers and their family members in New York States through its existing insurance offerings, but anticipates covering an additional 200,000 workers across the three states within five years.

By cutting out the for-profit health insurance industry out of the equation, Co-Ops are intended to return insurance to its roots, in which workers pooled risk and supported each other. And by competing with private plans, the Co-Ops should also drive down costs for patients. “Co-Ops will promote competition in the insurance market and respond well to the health care needs of Americans,” according to Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“It’s like venture capital for healthcare,” said Sara Horowitz, executive director of the Freelancers Union. “By empowering nonprofit social entrepreneurs to compete with private insurers, Co-Ops provide a powerful new tool to bring more affordable options to the most people.”

Do you think the Obama administration’s healthcare reforms are the solution to independent workers’ health insurance woes?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Images_of_Money.