A Few More Words About this Whole Demand Studios Insurance Thing

I was up for some time last night thinking about the reaction to the announcment that Demand Studios was offering affordable health care coverage to their freelance writers. To be honest, I’m perplexed by the reaction. I’ll always expect more than a few people to direct negativity in Demand Studios’ direction, but I didn’t expect a flat out rebellion. Call me delusional and naive (and I believe someone already did) but I felt more freelancers would see the gesture for what it was, a sincere desire to do something good to show their freelancers how appreciative they are for their efforts. Now, I’m not asking anyone to be grateful or insisting you have to love the plan, but I think a few points are in need of clarification.

I spend a lot of time with the Demand Studios people and spent several days working with them in Santa Monica and, also, Las Vegas. Some people might find this hard to believe, but they really do want to know what will make their freelancers happy and how they can make freelancing for them a better experience. Knowing how much time, energy and effort went into searching plans and negotiating with health care people, to say I’m disappointed by the reaction is an understatement.  I’m not saying I don’t understand some of the reactions, just that I find it upsetting because I understand what went it this and the motivation behind it. I couldn’t wait to make the announcement because I couldn’t wait for all of the naysayers to see Demand Studios for the positive community and freelance client that it is.

That didn’t happen. Instead there was an uprising. Since so many people sent me notes and commented here expressing their negativity, I thought I might address some of those questions and concerns.

We were lied to. We were misled.

Honestly, you weren’t. No one at Demand Studios said “well let’s lie to them and tell them what they want to hear. They’ll never figure out the difference on their own anyway.”  With all the recent negativity directed towards them, can you honestly say they wanted to mislead their writers? Now I know there are a couple of writers carrying pitchforks who have only been with Demand Studios for a few weeks, and they might not have yet experienced the generosity of the Demand Studios team, but those who have been with Demand for some time should know the team has your best interests at heart. No one lied. No one misled.

It’s not insurance.

It’s a very basic plan. It’s NOT comprehensive coverage. It’s not the catastrophic plan everyone was hoping for, but no one promised that in the first place.  When health care was being discussed the DS community expressed some wants, for example, a low co pay, a low deductible and an affordable prescription plan. Well, the DS team negotiated all these things on their freelancers’ behalf. Now that the plan has been introduced everyone is saying, “well this isn’t going to help me if I get run over by a bus.” Probably not, but that was never promised in the first place. However, if you catch the flu and need a doctor and some meds, you’re covered. Again, no one lied to you. No one said, “Heh. Let’s call it insurance when it’s really  a discount plan, they won’t know the difference.”  If you worked with Demand Studios for any length of time, you will know that they’re very transparent and honest with their community. They wouldn’t pull the insurance card and not use it just to appease you.

You’re paid to say this.

No I’m not. I’m paid to post ads for Demand, post their news and represent them at agreed-upon events. I’m not paid to sooth ruffled feathers and write long drawn out posts for them.  I’m not paid to comment at other blogs on their behalf or spread the joy on Twitter. No one tells me what to write and no where in my contract does it say I only have to say positive things about them. In fact, we agreed before I signed a thing that I would be open and honest, especially if there is something I don’t agree with. I worked very hard to build up this community, my reputation and the FWJ/Deb Ng brand. Do you all really believe I’d toss that away because a content site is paying me?

I’m not impressed.

The same people who are blogging or on Twitter about how unimpressed they are about Demand Studios have been blogging and Tweeting about how unimpressed they are for some time. I’m taking it for what it’s worth. The bottom line is that this is unprecedented.  The folks behind a content site set out to see if they could allow their freelancers access to affordable health care. You may not appreciate the plan, but I hope you can appreciate the gesture.

It was a business decision.

or

It was for publicity

No. It wasn’t a business decision. If anything, negotiating these plans took the DS team away from their work, so if it was a business decision, it was a bad one. As for publicity, people write about Demand Studios every day, they don’t really need the publicity. They were on Fox News yesterday, they can do more of that stuff if they want the publicity.

I’m worried for the poor freelancers who will quit their regular coverage in favor for this plan.

As made clear in my previous posts about this, if you already have good, comprehensive coverage, you’ll want to stick with that. Demands Studios said this upfront as well. Also, I think freelancers are intelligent enough to figure it out on their own. We know enough to research and read all the fine print. It’s kind of insulting to have other people think we don’t know any better and that we’ll automatically give up a comprehensive plan for one that is very basic.

The Demand Studios team are monitoring your comments and hearing your concerns. I’m sure they’re taking everything into consideration so they can revisit this again and tweak their plans to make it more of what their community wants. However, to say they lied and misled their community is incorrect. They have the best of intentions and I’m happy to throw my support behind anyone who goes to these lengths for their freelancers.

Comments

  1. I wouldn’t be involved in Demand Studios because my business focus isn’t in freelancing, but as a small business person I see the plan and think “Wow! That’s great!”

    From what I understand of US health care getting any sort of affordable coverage if you’re self employed is not easy and I applaud Demand Studios’ efforts.

  2. It really is a shame that people do not stop to look at the bigger picture. A client went out of their way to bring a health care option to freelancers. How many freelancers that came before us had this type of opportunity? It is just amazing the response this has received. The words “ungrateful” and “narrow minded” come to mind. Is that harsh of me? Yes, but nowhere near as harsh as what has been said in regards to the health care insurance, and yes people it IS insurance, that Demand Studios has worked so hard to bring to the table.

  3. Deb -

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing, the reaction or the sense of entitlement. It’s a sad day in the freelancing world. After this reception I’d be suprised if anyone wanted to do something good for freelancers again.

  4. Seeing the company offer health insurance motivated me to want to work FOR them, not against them. I’ve never applied for Demand Studio in the past because of the upfront tax information required and long application but I will have to think again about that decision.

  5. I’m one of those that are very disappointed with the offering. It is and it isn’t insurance. What bothers me the most is that there is a required minimum of articles each month just to qualify to what is essentially a discount/PPO hybrid.

    Next is the inconsistencies with what DS says and the manual provided states. As I said on a forum, I think DS was promised something that wasn’t delivered. If this is the case, shame on the provider. I do appreciate that they tried- but what about those of us with large families? Or disabled children? I know I’m not the only one.

    I’m not ready to burn down the studio [lol], but I am angry. My hopes were high. I didn’t expect the sky, but I did expect a traditional bare bones high deductible plan. Even with a high deductible I can have all annual exams, glasses, and other typical care covered 100% by paying around $100 more, through Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

    Open enrollment. No minimum of articles for any single client. For my entire family.

    I will continue to write for DS, not trying to run people away from there. But for anyone in search of traditional insurance coverage- here is a link. http://www.freelancersunion.org/insurance/index.html As I said, the lowest plan has crazy deductibles but you’d be surprised how fast that can be met in an emergency or critical situation. I’m a member of the Union- it’s free and it allows us to have a voice.

  6. Well, if you don’t like the Demand Studios plan, you can join the Freelancers Union (it’s free) and sign up for one of their insurance plans. It’s “regular” insurance, not a discount plan, with a choice of deductibles. Members also get discounts on business services and products (office supplies, billing software, etc).

    There are also some states that offer discounted insurance plans to people below a certain income level (like New York’s Healthy New York plan).

  7. Oh, and I just checked the Freelancers Union web site, and they’re having a series of open enrollment webinars about their insurance plans.

  8. I’m grateful to Demand for trying to bring us insurance. I have no doubt that they did the best they could. My only issue is with the way the plan was presented in the announcement emails, etc. No, they weren’t lying to us…but the plan was presented in a way that encouraged unrealistic expectations- ie “This is real insurance! no co-pays! No caps!” It made it sound like they had actually managed to snag a real insurance plan like you get when you work for a real employer.

    Sure, there aren’t any co-pays-but that’s because the plan only pays you a set amount to cover a doctor’s visit. When most people read “no-copays” they think, great, I can visit a doctor without paying out of pocket (except maybe for prescriptions). With this plan, if your doctor’s visit costs more than what the plan contributes, you are still on the hook for the remainder-however much that may be.

    Again, I’m grateful for the offer and I’m totally convinced they did the best they could, but there was room for improvement in the way that they managed our expectations.

    • Alison,
      I cover the health insurance industry – and I thought you might be interested to know that a number of employers are no longer offering comprehensive “major medical” policies. Smaller ones are offering either a “limited benefits” policy like the one Demand is offering, or a high-deductible health plan that doesn’t pay anything until you’ve already spent $2,500 (or more).

      • Oh believe me, I understand that coverage is getting more sucky for more people all the time. Still, when people see “no co-pays!” they are going assume that means “I can go to the doctor without whipping out my checkbook.” Couldn’t they have said something like “Generous reimbursement limits?”

        Like I said, I’m not griping about the plan, really, I’m sure they did the best they good. If I decide I want kids in the future, it’s nice that I could join and have at least some prenatal visits and a hospital stay for delivery included. I just had my hopes up in ways I wouldn’t have if the benefits landing page had been more clear.

  9. I am greatly appreciative of the effort and considered buckling down to do the 30 articles which would pretty much cover the cost of that insurance plus a little extra…but I haven’t decided yet. I found the plan kind of confusing and just didn’t understand it, and I’m not one to invest time or money in anything I don’t understand. I think what I’d really like is if someone could explain to me what it /does/ cover if I ended up in the emergency room, for example. Still, bravo to Demand Studios!!! And Bravo to every Freelancer’s Writer’s Guild or other Writer’s Guild who has taken this step. It’s very needed, even if I have not found the situation that suits me yet.

    • From what I understand, if you go to the Emergency Room, the plan will pay a specific amount to cover the visit ($100, $150 or $200, depending on the plan), no matter how much it actually ends up costing you.

      Same with doctor’s visits and hospital stays.

      If you go with this plan, you should also get a high-deductible, catastrophic plan if you can afford it/qualify for one, to limit your out-of-pocket costs if something really, really bad happens.

  10. I have been with DS since I lost my four biggest clients in the same day. I signed up for DS and have been making consistent money ever since. I have since prospected and found other clients, but DS still fills any holes in my finances when I need it.

    I’m not sure what the problems is here. I remember the first announcement for DS health care and every one since. None of them promised any specific type of coverage. I know that there are areas for improvement, but there will always be areas of improvement. I am grateful to get some type of coverage for essential working 30 hours a month for three months (and DS says I can’t “unqualify” if I stop writing for them).

    I am also member of the Freelancer’s Union and it was formerly my best bet. But I no longer live in NY state so the coverage offered in my state was more expensive and wouldn’t include my pre-existing condition. So, yeah, this is kinda perfect.

    Long after I didn’t need the money to supplement my income, I worked as a waitress 35 hours a week just so that I could keep the group health insurance. I’m sure that this was a business decision on DS’s part. A very smart one. Because if DS had offered basic health coverage two or three years ago, I would have started writing there a long time ago.

  11. I’m glad you posted this Deb. I was up last night thinking about the reaction of the community as well. You are far more tactful than I am (thank goodness). :)

    I do understand some of the disappointment, but again, DS didn’t have to provide anything. This may not be the perfect plan, but it is certainly a start! And as Deb has already implied, there are more great the works. If everyone keeps having tantrums that they didn’t get what they think they are entitled to, DS may just say why bother. No one is ever happy with what they do anyhow.

    This is just another option for freelancers. if it doesn’t work, find something that does. But can’t we appreciate that we have been provided with another option instead of thinking we are entitled to have our demands met? They sad truth is, we are not entitled. And if we thought we were, choosing a freelance career is probably not the best choice we can make.

    I want to say one more thing, though I’m sure no one cares. I was very hesitant to apply with DS because of all the terrible things I read about them. But I decided I had to decide for myself. Others’ opinions are valuable but they may not reflect my experience. So I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did.

    They are not my primary client, but when I do write for DS the experience is a good one. I have only had one CE that I thought was not very nice. Maybe she/he was having a bad day. It happens. Overall this company is build on a pretty good model and there is so much room for growth. The possibilities are exciting and I’m happy to be a part of it.

  12. I can’t get over the negative comments. Have these folks EVER tried to find health insurance as a freelance writer? It’s really ugly out there. Sense of entitlement? I can’t even read some of the negative comments…juvenile, ugly, and just stupid.

    Thank you, Demand Studios, for offering freelance writers the chance to get health insurance. Yes, qualifications apply. No, they won’t cover your cosmetic surgery or your tummy tuck. (probably not, I didn’t check the policy). But if you get into a car accident, you’ll be plenty glad you had insurance.

    Go for it guys! If Demand Studios is your thing and you need insurance, it sounds like a good deal.

    • The criticism comes because this is comparatively expensive and doesn’t cover very much. Two hundred dollars recompense for an emegency room visit is nothing at all. A simple visit there could easily cost you ten times that much. Ten thousand dollars for a serious illness also covers just about nothing at all.

      What most people would consider health insurance would be if you paid the four hundred bucks a month and in turn had the right to see a doctor with a minimal co-pays whenever you felt like it and nearly had all your medical expenses covered if you got really sick.

      This doesn’t do that. Why is it so hard to understand that people aren’t particularly grateful at being asked to shell out a considerable sum of money each month for very little in return?

      • I have health insurance….$400 a month would be a dream, especially with the options you mention. The only way anything would be $400 a month would be if it was heavily subsidized. Though I don’t write for DS, I’ve read a lot of the comments. This looks to me like a problem of semantics. I’ve seen co-pay plans like this, and no they don’t pay the entire cost, but neither does a lot of insurance. After insurance payments, I’m looking at $45,000 for back surgery my daughter had last year.

        That being said, anything DS is offering can be considered as part of compensation. It’s certainly not a “cadillac” plan, but the self-employed don’t have a lot of options (I don’t qualify for NASE plan due to surgery of 42 years ago, despite no complications since).

  13. With that so called insurance plan, everyone would truly be better saving the high premiums and putting them into a health savings account and getting their own high-deductible plan. In the even of catastrophic illness or even a routine hospital visit / admission, this plan will do little to protect anyone. You’ll need at least major medical on top of it and then you’re paying even more.

    That being said, for someone who can’t get insurance elsewhere because of supposed pre-existing conditions, this could be better than nothing. I still think, though, putting all that money into your own HSA would be better than paying for insurance that won’t protect you from bankruptcy at the first sign of illness.

    It looks and sounds like DS, like everyone else, got used by the insurance company they negotiated with. And I agree, what they made this sound like preceding the release of the actual details and what it is are two very, very different things.

  14. I’ve been looking to get into freelance writing to supplement my income and am quite disappointed in the attitudes of some freelancers. There are no entitlements and no free lunches. I am hoping to have the time next week to apply to Demand Studios and hope to be accepted.

  15. I don’t know why I was surprised by the negative feed from the Demand Studio’s freelance writing community, regarding the insurance plan DS is offering. The daily forums are so filled with the negative vibe that it has almost ceased to be a place to collaborate.

    My hat is off to Demand Studios for the effort and option. I did not develop “unrealistic” expectations of the plan as some said they got through the announcements. I suspect it is all in how you look at reality. Fortune 500 companies (at least at the present time) are not REQUIRED to offer any type of coverage for their full-time (non-freelance) staff. They do it for competition and retention purposes. DS has stepped up to the plate in the freelance environment for the same reasons. Moreover, they realize their people (freelancers) are their greatest assets.

    Perhaps many of the DS freelance whiners [writers] freelance, because they could not make it in any other type of work environment. Entitlement and all, you know.

    If you don’t like it, pass on it, be professional and move on with your work.

  16. Demand Studios owes you nothing. NOTHING.

    You do your work and get paid for it, that’s what they owe you. All the bickering here and at the forum is petty and immature. GROW UP.

    Your sense of entitlement is an embarrassment.YES, I AM talking about YOU. Why should DS do anything for you now especially the ones who are INSISTING DS lied. Some of the people at the forum just pick,pick pick for drama sake (as usual) and others have valid concerns but no one owes you anyting. If you don’t trust Demand and insist they lied then don’t work for them. Move on and good riddance. I hope it’s a cold day in hell before they do anything for any of you ingrates again.

    Congratulations everyone. Deb spends all her time fighting people so you get respect and you all just proved to them why you don’t deserve it. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.

    Ingrates.

    • As far as I saw, no one here is being nasty to Deb. We have a right to voice our satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

      No one is being nasty to the other writers for their choice to use or pass on the plans offered. In fact, a few of us gave alternatives.

      Coming here just to insult others for sharing frustrations is as counter-productive as what you’re very rudely pointing out that we are doing. For your information, I for one have very vocally defended Deb and Demand Studios away from FWJ. So have others. I don’t appreciate being called names just for tactfully pointing out why I disagree or dislike a program.

      Calling names is not a good example of how to act grown up.

      • I apologize Julie my anger isn’t directed at you. Youre not calling names and pointing fingers. I also didn’t say anyone attacked Deb. I’m saying Deb fights to get respect for DS writers but because everyone is bickering that’s not going to happen. I’m sorry if you thought I meant you.

        • No problem, Merrit.

          We’re all frustrated on every side of the fence. No matter what we feel, we still need to remember we are all freelancers. Low pay, high pay, print, internet, whatever…we are all freelancers and we should be civil. Hey- I have been guilty of far worse than what you posted :-)

          Freelancing has some of the highest emotional topics, because as a group we’re over-looked and not taken seriously enough. It’s going to happen: the arguments.

  17. I think most of what I’m hearing on the comments is that people feel the plan is too expensive for the benefits–which is a fair enough statement. I’ve felt that way in traditional employment too, that they offer plans that aren’t worth the deduction from my paycheck.

    I think what we’re hearing and seeing is not a sense of entitlement at all. I’m not sure where that idea (that it is entitlement speaking) is coming from.

    What I’m hearing people saying is, (and here the I is what I’m hearing):

    1. I really had high hopes that this would be the answer to my insurance problem prayers.
    2. It wasn’t.
    3. Thus I am extremely disappointed.

    That disappointment is taking many forms, from simply taking a pass to rabidly snarling that DS lied. People have all sorts of emotional reactions when they’re disappointed. It has nothing to do with being an ingrate or not deserving respect.

    Anyone in any profession could have that sort of a reaction in response to a major disappointment of a point of fear and anger. In truth, it’s always been a point of anger for me when I learned that generating my own employment (thus leaving a job open for someone else) means that I’ve gotten cut out of nearly every structure of the modern world for a time, from a mortgage, to renting an apartment (thank god I already had one, but I can’t make a change any time soon) to health insurance. Either the cost is prohibitive or I need two years of tax returns. I’ve always said small business in /general/ needed more support.

    I see that DS is trying to give that support, but yes, I can see how people look at this and go, “This is not solving my problem.” That said, I did some research this morning and it looks like what they’re doing is basically called an indemnity policy. I did find a better, cheaper, anyone-qualifies indemnity policy almost immediately so I know I’ll go with that. (The name of that company is C1 Health Direct). I don’t feel like DS lied and I’m sure they did the best they could, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying, “That is not a very good insurance plan.” I look at that plan and see that the /Insurance Provider/ (and not DS) is selling a, “So I can say I have insurance insurance plan.” That’s not entirely bad because some doctors and hospitals won’t even see you without that much, but it’s not exactly great protection either.

  18. I’ve never come across a freelancing company like Demand Studios that has tried to offer health insurance to their content providers. It’s an option that many freelancers did not have before…and you don’t have to become a part of it if you don’t want to. It’s not being forced upon you. For some, it is a breath of fresh air, while others will pick it apart no matter what.

    I think the gesture is well-intended. Basically, there are thousands of writers for Demand Studios and it will be IMPOSSIBLE to please all of them at the same time. DS is a company that lays all their cards on the table. It’s not a scam. The system has it’s quirks and annoyances, but so does every job, from 9-to-5s to temporary gigs.

    Overall, there’s no denying that DS is a company that allows many writers to make a decent income, supplement their existing income, or earn splurge money. They didn’t have to offer the health insurance option, but they definitely got the ball rolling in a different direction regarding options available to freelance writers, don’t you think?

  19. As a non-US writer, this plan doesn’t apply to me anyway, but I am curious to know something:

    There was nothing mandatory about this plan, right?

    No-one was forced to take up the offer or lose their DS work, correct? All that is on offer here is a choice… Who would cry foul about being given options?!?!

  20. Hi Deb,

    I agree with those that are bringing up the “entitlement” issue. Of course this plan isn’t for everyone. It won’t work for me, and I am uninsured. That being said, DS obviously put a lot of thought and planning into this effort. I think that, in itself, is a real good thing.

    Where some people get off being angry about this amazes me. Since when, as a freelancer, are they entitled to anything but pay for the work they do? What other client has done what DS has done in searching out this coverage, however meager some think it is?

    I could use this as an illustration of the current mindset of Americans in general, but this is a writer’s website, not a political one, so I won’t go there.

    Thank you, Deb, for hosting this thread and thank you, Demand, for the offer.

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