I find these posts hard to write. Because of my partnership with Demand Studios, there are always some people who write off my positivity as being a shill or mouthpiece. So I can tell you about why I feel so positive about Demand Studios, but half of you will walk away thinking I’m paid to say all of this stuff anyway. I’ll editorialize a bit later on in this post, but don’t worry, I’ll announce it first so you can leave if you want to.
Instead of saying what I want to say about Demand Studios off the bat, I’m going to take you behind the scenes to a conference call I had today with of Demand Studios marketing people, Yury Polnar and Mike Cowan. Yury and Mike asked me if I’d like to get on a call with them to discuss the health care plan, since it’s hard to get the full picture from bullet points. The plan is pretty much as was covered by the points in my last post, and in everything you’ve seen on the web so far, but I felt our conversation worth discussing.
The decision to offer freelancers access to affordable health care is something the Demand Studios team tossed around at various meetings but didn’t really delve into until recently. The team knew from talking with their community that health care is a major issue for freelance writers. Finally, after one of these discussions, Mike called one of his top finance people and asked if health care for freelancers was possible. In his call with me, Mike said he considers it Demand’s duty to ensure their freelancers are happy and cared for. His goal was to find a “good, basic, solid plan” at an affordable level. So he started the ball in motion.
I’m not sure if you thought about this, but consider what it must be like to contact health care providers and say, “so we’re an online content provider and we want to offer health care to our freelancers at an affordable rate…” It’s not an easy sell and most providers consider it laughable. In fact, they said it was impossible if not handled through payroll deductions. Mike and his team encountered plenty of resistance. Without the help of a “middleman” the folks at Demand might not have been able to see this through to fruition.
In their negotiations they wanted to make the plan affordable for their freelancers, but also offer some attractive options. For example, with the Demand Studios plans, there’s discounted prescriptions, no co pay and no caps. Now, it was reported at Media Bistro that these health care discounts are “too good to be true” but I disagree. They’re not perfect, but they’re not “too good to be true.” Sure, we all want our costs covered 100%. I’m not going to lie and say, there are no situations where we may need more coverage and I’m not going to lie and say it’s the best plan in the world. However, it’s still an affordable option for freelancers who are looking for regular medical coverage. Mike makes it clear: This isn’t a plan to leave your existing health coverage for, it’s simply an affordable option for freelancers who aren’t covered.
Again, if your spouse or partner is covered through work, that’s your better option. If you’re uninsured, this is something to consider. Isn’t it nice to know you can visit a doctor if you’re not feeling well and it won’t cost an arm and leg?
So now I’m going to editorialize a little bit.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I think it’s important to stop and think for a second about the company who is putting all of this together. Why should they bother taking all this time and expense to negotiate with health care providers on our behalf? The Demand Studios writers appear to be happy. They enjoy what they do. Many claim to be working full time and earning a good salary. So why does Demand Studios need to get into the whole healthcare thing?
The truth is, they don’t.
I’m already seeing the grumbles from the usual suspects, and this plan isn’t for everyone, for sure. However, for a company to go to this level for their writers speaks volumes. When was the last time one of your freelance writing clients went to such lengths for you? It’s one thing for a freelancer’s union to negotiate a plan for writers, but for a company thato hires freelancers to show this level of commitment is unprecedented. Mike spent a lot time on the phone and working into the night to see this happen. You may not agree with web content or you might hate the Demand Studios model, but I can tell you without hesitation that not many of your freelance writing clients ever considered your health care coverage and if there’s something they can do to make it more affordable. This is more than a P.R. move. To quote Mike, “We didn’t do this so people would write about us. There are plenty of other ways to do that. We recognize that our freelancers are people and they have concerns.”
Mike also is reading all the complaints and concerns from freelancers and noted on the Demand Studios forum:
We spoke to many of you and consulted with health insurance experts to determine what our freelancers and what other independent contractors are typically purchasing. What we found was that many either have no insurance or have low cost insurance that covers you for very very little.
Based on what I found, the unfortunate reality right now is this: if you are an independent contractor with no affiliation to corporate or government health insurance, obtaining comprehensive, catastrophic health coverage for you and your family is prohibitively expensive for a great many.
Knowing this, we wanted to offer access to plans with a low monthly premium that offer more protection and benefits than plans you can get on your own. For example, we wanted to offer a low cost plan that didn’t make you pay a $2500 – 5000 deductible before you started getting coverage or force to you to answer health questions or disclose pre-existing conditions.
The purpose of this program was to offer a better solution for those who are fending for themselves. After sitting down with experts in the health industry I am confident that this package of benefits could be a really attractive option for many. If you already have fantastic insurance then these plans probably don’t look that earth shattering to you.
That being said, we are paying attention to all of these comments with an eye towards optimizing the offering down the road. This is new ground for us and for freelance writing sites in general and we’re not going to stop here.
Mike also went on to say:
these plans are insurance, not a discount plan. You are able to access discounted rates through the Beech Street plan and the coverage goes against those already discounted rates. Also, there is no cap on the payout of this insurance. If you are in the hospital for a long period of time you are covered at a specific level every day that you are there.
I asked Mike if he plans on topping the health care thing and he let me in on some of what’s coming up in the next few months. People, the bar is going to be raised even higher, so do stay tuned.