Behind the Scenes of the Demand Health Care Announcement

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.

Comments

  1. Hi Deb,

    While it is unfortunate that no matter what you write there may be some nay-sayers, the number of individuals that appreciate this post will far outweigh them. As an inactive insurance broker (I still have my license), I can honestly say that from what I’ve seen so far Demand Studios is to be commended for what they have accomplished in offering this health care plan. The majority of health care plans on the market will not insure many individuals because of pre-existing conditions, weight and a few hundred other reasons I have documented. And if they do accept you the cost is so unbelievable for one person, there is no hope affording a family plan. Bottom line, individuals that need health care will have access.

    As far your partnership with Demand Studios, I am confident that many will join me in support with a genuine “You go girl!”. You work hard and you’re good to your online community.

    Cheers & Best Wishes for your continue success!

    Bethany

    • Thanks, Bethany.I also agree that Demand Studios is setting the bar. While I agree the plan isn’t perfect, I don’t get the complaining. At least they’re trying to be part of the solution.

  2. I was really surprised and disappointed at all the criticisms of this plan over on the DS forum. I guess since they were suddenly being offered something that no one else offers in the world of content providers, they thought they were entitled to the world. DS didn’t have to offer anything. They did this because they wanted to show that they appreciate those who works so hard for them. To me, that is amazing and much appreciated. Sometimes I think these people would complain if they were given a million dollars because it isn’t in all $20s.

    I am interested in what you said, Deb, about what will be happening in the coming months. I was discussing this with some other writers and I said that this makes me wonder what else DS is willing to do to help their writers. Obviously they care and want to make our lives a bit better, so this may be the beginning of the good things. Apparently, I may be right judging by your comment. :) I’m anxious to see what may be in the works.

    • You can me both, Kathleen. If the plan isn’t for you, move on. Demand doesn’t owe their writers, and this is a wonderful gesture of good will.

      And yes, there are some very cool things coming up in the next couple of months and I can’t wait to tell you about them here!

    • The criticisms of the plan were completely fair. DS promised a health insurance plan and delivered a health care discount plan. Yes, offering a discount plan is a big step for a content site, and it may be helpful to many people who don’t have insurance. But it would have been much better for DS to be honest about this from the start, so people didn’t get their hopes up. I resent the assumption floating around that if someone offers something that I need, then delivers something else, I should just shut up and be grateful that they tried, rather than upset that I was lied to.

      Then again, DS could have been misled as well. When I was shopping for insurance, I had a particular health care discount plan company practically harass me by phone for several weeks asking if I wanted insurance. Never disclosed the fact that they were a discount plan; I had to look that up on their web site. It’s possible that some people aren’t clear about the difference.

      • Amy,

        No one lied. It wasn’t the plan you wanted, but no one lied. The DS team spent hours, days even, looking for affordable plans for freelance writers. I feel that even if you don’t like the plans, there’s no need for anger. I think the expectations were too high from the community and in retrospect, introducing the plan without all the details probably wasn’t the best idea.

        But no one lied.

        No one is telling anyone to shut up and be grateful, feedback is always important. I just don’t understand the negativity. Some people worked very hard to negotiate this and to have everyone turn around and say “well this sucks” isn’t very encouraging and doesn’t offer them motivation to try harder. So feedback is good but I’m not a fan of negativity.

        • People repeatedly asked if it was actual insurance or a discount plan, and were repeatedly told it was insurance (even in the thread today announcing the plan). What is that, if not lying about the plan?

          Again, I appreciate that people worked hard to make this happen, but people’s expectations would not have been too high if they had been told from the outset that it was a discount plan, not actual insurance.

          • Amy, in all fairness, do you believe the folks at DS flat out lied to you? That they said to themselves “hmmm….let’s just mislead everyone into thinking this is insurance, when it really isn’t.” That after you all asked if it’s insurance, they lied to you full well knowing you’d see the plan yourself in a few weeks? I don’t believe that to be the case at all.

            I think with all the recent negativity it would be the last thing they’d do. I spoke to them on the phone today and they honestly believe they are offering you access to insurance. So perhaps your definitions are different, but no one lied to you. I would never risk my reputation and put my support into a company that lied to its freelancers.

          • “In all fairness,” Deb, I believe that calling this plan “health insurance” is incredibly misleading, regardless of whether DS intended to mislead anyone; and in fact in my original comment I raised the possibility that DS was mislead themselves. That appears to be the case; but what DS believes does not change the fact that this is not health insurance, and people have the right to be disappointed regardless of whether DS intended to mislead them or not.

          • Well, in fairness to Demand, I would say it’s more than just a discount plan because it does pay some benefits, as opposed to just reducing your costs. It just isn’t a “comprehensive” health insurance plan, and the benefits are limited.

            I agree that the limitations should have been spelled out more clearly in the announcements. When I read them, I thought “Hallelujah! I can have regular people insurance that would help pay for normal medical care and protect against a catastrophic illness or injury (as opposed to what I have now, which doesn’t kick in until I’ve spend $3000 (or $6,000 if I’m out of network).”

            I was a little disappointed, too…not mad at Demand, ’cause this plan is better than nothing, but disappointed nonetheless.

  3. I’m a little confused by the claims of “no-copays, no caps.” I looked at the plan, and the way that it appeared to work was that for every doctor visit, hospital stay, etc, the plan would pay a certain amount of your costs. And there were limits-30 days in the hospital per year, I believe, and 3 emergency room visits and only a certain number of diagnostic tests per year.

    Kudos to Demand for offering this plan, but people who sign up should expect some (potentially hefty) out-of-pocket costs if they get really sick or hurt. Also, it’s important to understand that there’s no cap on the amount you pay out of pocket, either, so signing up for high-deductible catastrophic health coverage would probably be a smart move.

    Again, I’m not criticizing Demand, but when I saw “no co-pays,” “no deductibles,” etc I thought maybe it would replace my crappy catastrophic plan. It won’t-but it could supplement it.

  4. Thank you Deb for this post. You are right, the usual naysayers are out and about. The thing is that somewhere along the way people forgot that Demand didn’t have to do anything. It is sad, that when a someone or a Company goes above and beyond for their people that there are those that will say, “Not enough”

    I for one am happy that Demand has brought this forward to us. Your post shows too, some of the tedious work behind the scenes that makes something like this possible. Where did people forget that they are “freelancers”? I ramble, I know.

    I have been called many things due to my full support of Demand Studios both in and out of the DS community. I say, call me what you will…but for me at this point in my career Demand Studios has made it possible to start fulfilling a dream that others will only ever dream about.

  5. Amy said,

    ““In all fairness,” Deb, I believe that calling this plan “health insurance” is incredibly misleading, regardless of whether DS intended to mislead anyone; and in fact in my original comment I raised the possibility that DS was mislead themselves. That appears to be the case; but what DS believes does not change the fact that this is not health insurance, and people have the right to be disappointed regardless of whether DS intended to mislead them or not.”

    Amy, again, no one is saying you shouldn’t be disappointed or even to offer respectful feedback. My issue is with your calling them liars, when this isn’t the case. I realize you feel misled, but no one set out to mislead you and therein lies the difference. By all means, express your disappointment but I don’t think a public lynching is the best approach.

    • Pointing that misleading statements were made is not “public lynching” or anything like it, and saying so is incredibly offensive to victims of actual violence.

      • Amy, we can pick back and forth like this if you’d like, but I don’t think either of us are going to change our minds.The bottom line is this:

        Demand Studios had good intentions when they set out to find affordable healthcare for their creators, and they have good intentions now.

        Now, this may not be what you had in mind but the gesture is there. No one lied and no one set out to mislead you. You don’t need to take them up on their offer, but at least take it in the spirit in which is was intended. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. However, no one set out to mislead you and no one lied.

        I’ve been writing for the web and freelancing for ten years, and I can’t think of a single other client who would do this for a freelancer. You may not think this is a big deal, but I find it to be a major step in the right direction and I’ll continue to support Demand Studios even if it means only two people are left in this community.

  6. Nice – a record breaking event in the freelance world, or at least it is in my book. Anyone who is willing to blow off their current plan without first finding out what they are trading for probably deserves what they get – rant about supposed lies all day long, but it’s a great gesture and will be welcomed by many as a quality that is far higher than having nothing at all. As always, thanks for the post, Deb, and keep up the great stuff!

  7. P.S., What’s the difference, exactly, between this plan and “insurance”? I’m no expert, by any means, but I wouldn’t mind some clarification here.

  8. Deb

    Just my two cents. I won’t say that Demand Studios intentionally misled anyone. But it is a content site. Therefore, they should offer correct wording/content in offers they make. No, they didn’t have to make the offer at all. But a health discount plan is far different than insurance, and to call it insurance is inacurate, and a DS editor should have caught this.

    • Actually it IS INSURANCE. It is not COMPREHENSIVE insurance, but it IS insurance. People should really get their facts together before starting jump on the “it’s not insurance” bandwagon.

  9. Does Demand get a cut–like AARP does?

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