• Advocacy

Freelance Politics: National Health Care Policy

It's not surprising that as jobs and financial security are disappearing, health care is at the top of our personal agendas. We are asking how we can protect ourselves and if we can afford the health coverage we need. Freelancers already know what many of our fellow Americans are learning for the first time: the old system of getting health insurance from your employer is insufficient, not to mention quickly disappearing. But what will take its place? Try this quick exercise. What comes to mind when you think of health insurance? Many of us hold three mental frameworks for health insurance: there is the employer, who pays for or heavily subsidizes private health plans; there are government programs, which are often under-funded and floundering; and there is the individual insurance market, which is prohibitively expensive and difficult to navigate. In the past, when long-term job stability was the norm, employers were an effective way to group people together to access benefits. As our workforce has evolved, however, we need to evolve our framework for accessing benefits, expanding the types of groups that provide benefits to include unions, nonprofits, community groups, faith-based groups, and others. There is a history in the U.S. of mutual societies and voluntary associations formed around individuals’ common needs and interests, and they used the power of numbers to gain benefits for their members. Why not take advantage of this strong history of collective power by grouping individuals together to access health insurance? You might ask why we should stay grouped at all. This is because we are more powerful in groups than as individuals. The employer-based system may be declining, but it has been a valuable way of grouping together individuals and creating an intermediary to mediate our relationships with larger bureaucracies. The intermediary is a trusted entity that performs an essential filtering function, negotiating tailored plans and providing a menu of vetted choices with customized recommendations. However, in the new marketplace, it has become clear that the intermediary model needs to be expanded, and benefits need to be portable. Freelancers Union, now with nearly 110,000 members nationwide, provides health insurance to 20,000 people in New York and is trying to be that trusted entity for its members. We are part of a new model of grouping communities to provide security and rebuild an effective social safety net. As the aphorism goes—the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. If you are interested in hearing more or you want to discuss your ideas for national health care policy, please sign up for our webinar discussion scheduled for Thursday, April 30.

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