The open enrollment period for health insurance started on Tuesday, and I’ve read many posts on the blog, forum, and member chatter about the 2010 plans. The overwhelming response has been to the increase in monthly premiums and the changes to benefits on all five plans, and I want to talk about those concerns today. The unfortunate reality of health care costs in the United States is that they are rising and rising fast, well outpacing regular inflation. In fact, if grocery prices rose as fast as health costs, a pound of bananas at your local market would cost $16. As a result, similar associations that offer plans for the self-employed have dropped their most comprehensive plans, and prices for health insurance on the open market continue to increase, starting at $750 a month for coverage in New York. In light of these rising costs, FIC’s plan design team had to balance the advice of financial advisors with the needs of members so that the greatest number of members could have the best amount of coverage possible. We talked with many of you over the past year through surveys, focus groups, and interviews to help us make tough decisions about balancing premiums and out-of-pocket costs for benefits, and we found that keeping monthly premium prices as low as possible was more important than anything else for the largest group of members. Benefit reductions were minimized as much as possible, and certain benefits were enhanced, including preventive screenings on HD plans and in-office surgery coverage on PPO plans. You can learn more about specific changes from 2009 to 2010 on the open enrollment instructions page. Some members also asked if cost increases are an attempt to drive up profits for FIC, and I can assure you, they are not. Although FIC is a for-profit organization, it is wholly owned by Freelancers Union, a non-profit. This means any profits made by FIC go toward Freelancers Union to increase services for our members, not towards lining the pockets of corporate board members or individual shareholders. This model allows us to offer insurance in the most self-sufficient, sustainable way possible so that we can provide a safety net for independent workers now and twenty years from now. If you would like to learn more about how the plans were designed for 2010, please join me on one of the two webinars dedicated to discussing FIC and answering your questions. They will be on Thursday, November 19 at 5:00 PM and Wednesday, December 2 at 3:00 PM. You can register for the webinars and learn more on the Events page.