• Director Dispatches

A Message from Sara: Balancing benefits and premiums

Since we launched yesterday, I have been reading your posts and talking to members. From those conversations, I will be blogging about what made us start an insurance company, what our strategy is, and why it will be ultimately more sustainable than relying on the traditional insurance industry. I know that changes to your health insurance – such as the one we are making – can be difficult. Premium prices rise every year and we are forced to make hard choices. There are two challenges: general healthcare inflation and the overall level of benefits usage for each of our plans. Insurance premium rates will increase by a national average of roughly 11.8% in 2009 – 12.2% in the northeast. Use of some of the Freelancers Union health plans, especially the more comprehensive plans, was high this year – resulting in higher premium increases for those plans next year. Starting FIC is a first step in building a long-term strategy for handling the pressures of the rising costs of health insurance. If we had continued to operate at the whim of a traditional commercial carrier, the rate increases and changes in specific plan offerings over the coming years would be much less in our control. Earlier this year, we surveyed members enrolled in health insurance to better understand your health care priorities as we face hard decisions around rising costs. Over 70% of responding members indicated that we should adjust benefits to keep premiums from rising too much, with premium price being the most important factor members consider when selecting a health plan. This year, we did our best – with our average rate increase being less than 2 percentage points higher than the regional average. Not great – but the best we could do without drastically reducing benefits. At the same time, the survey told us that members value being able to see the doctors in the BlueCross BlueShield network and not having to change doctors. So, with the FIC plans we have expanded access to the BCBS network and the ability to go out of network – now available on all 5 plans. This is one of many blog posts that I will be writing, so please let me know your thoughts and what you would like me to elaborate on. And from you, I ask not to give up on us, to hold us to a high standard, and to be our partner in building something that will last. Sara Horowitz is the Executive Director of Freelancers Union.

Sara Horowitz As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.