Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) were supposed to commence on January 1, but were delayed by the White House until the beginning of 2015. But the provision requiring all Americans, including freelance writers, to be covered by some kind of health insurance remains on schedule for next year.
A survey conducted by Cigna asked 250 self-employed American about various aspects of health insurance and how it affects them. Nearly one-quarter did not have health insurance at all, with 82 percent of them saying money was the main reason they didn’t. A provision of the ACA calls for the creation of insurance exchanges so people can choose a plan that fits their needs and budget, similar to how www.internetproviders.com helps people find broadband for their homes. But one of the largest writers unions in America don’t believe that is enough for its members, and is taking things a step further.
Freelancers Union Fighting Back
The New York City-based Freelancers Union is a non-profit organization that provides health insurance to 23,000 New York freelancers and dental, life and disability to writers nationwide. The organization’s website says its 220,000-plus writers, photographers and designers pool their money together to buy the plans. This results in individual coverage that is far less expensive than if it were purchased on the open market. Sara Horowitz, the founder of the organization, not only won a MacArthur Foundation award for creating it, but was even invited to the White House in 2009 for recognition of her work.
But the mutual admiration soon changed to turmoil. The ACA will force the Freelancers Union to open its coverage to anyone and everyone, not just freelancers and members of the union. Reform provisions would also force many in the union to forgo subsidies from the government if they stay on the plan, which would rise to a universal price. Horowitz told Forbes in 2009 that the entire ACA is contrary to President Barack Obama’s promise to allow people to stay on their current plan if they so chose.
This was all said before the Freelancers Union received more than $170 million in loans from the federal government in 2012 to create a Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (Co-Op) to provide health coverage to unaffiliated customers. Horowitz told Crain’s New York Business the Co-Op will allow her union to compete with large insurance companies. She also successfully pushed for members of the union to be exempted from federal mandates, which has drawn the ire of several New York businesses.
Conflicts of Interest
The New York state Senate and Assembly have both passed a bill exempting the Freelancers Union and its members from individual mandates of the ACA through at least 2014. But other businesses and organizations in the state say the law is unfair to them and plays favorites. One official from the insurance industry, according to Buzzfeed, called Horowitz a “hypocrite” for taking federal money but still trying to exempt her union members from the law. Senator Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, said freelancers are a “valuable” asset to the state and he wants to do whatever he can to protect that resource.
The bill now awaits the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has not indicated his position on it.
Creative Commons image by University of the Frasier Valley