What to do about health care? The conversation on both sides of the aisle

Nov 3, 2016

Access to quality, affordable health insurance has always been a headline issue for independent workers. In our report, Freelancing in America 2016, we found that despite the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for health insurance, 20% of full-time freelancers are still uninsured.

Our study revealed that not only does health insurance remain a top concern, but 67% of freelance workers likely to vote would support a candidate who believes all workers should have benefits regardless of employment status and full-time freelancers rate having health care as the most important benefit to support their work and lifestyle.

The next president will have to address the flaws in the Affordable Care Act – including the rising cost for healthcare among individual purchasers. This November, candidates now have the opportunity to court the freelance vote by laying out their plans for a better system.

Unfortunately, thus far, candidates and policy makers have not directly addressed the freelance workforce, but, the topic of healthcare has come up. In fact, it was one of the first questions from the audience in the second debate:

The Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, it is not affordable. Premiums have gone up, deductibles have gone up, copays has gone up, prescriptions have gone up and the coverage has gone down. What will you do to bring the cost down and make coverage better?

The candidates’ responses represented the party line divide on what to do about the ailing system – and though the direction suggested by each party is different, both perspectives agree that the Affordable Care Act can’t remain in its current iteration.

Secretary Clinton noted that, despite its flaws, the Affordable Care Act has made key/ game-changing/ important gains in national healthcare. An additional 20 million Americans are now insured under the ACA – bringing national health insurance coverage to 90% of the population, an all-time high. The ACA has made it illegal to refuse an individual health insurance based on a pre-existing condition, to impose lifetime limits on individuals with serious health problems, and to charge women more for health insurance. Finally, under the ACA, young adults may stay on their parents plan until the age of 26.

But, Secretary Clinton agreed that health care for individuals and small businesses above the subsidy level – like many freelancers – is still far too expensive for the kind of coverage it buys. At the debate, she proposed that we “keep what works” from the ACA, and work on improving the rest.

One of the ways this could happen is the public option. About one-third of the senate currently supports a government-sponsored health plan, meaning every citizen would have access to a basic level of care – and then be able to purchase customized plans atop that. This would essentially detach the insurance market from employment status and even the playing field for independent workers.

On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump and many conservatives advocate repealing the Affordable Care Act altogether. In scaling back government regulation, the idea is that insurance companies will have more incentive to compete. Donald Trump would strike the requirement that most Americans must health care, open up the sale of insurance across state lines, and encourage the use of health savings accounts among consumers. This strategy would put the health insurance system back in the hands of for-profit companies and undo the above gains of the ACA.

One thing is clear, for the majority of freelancers, the current system isn’t working. Health insurance is still too expensive for what it covers and the system forces us to buy one-size-fits all packages that don’t fully meet our needs.

At Freelancers Union, we advocate for a portable benefits option that could allow freelancers to have the security they need while moving from job to job and gig to gig. This means delivering affordability, choice, and value to all freelancers when selecting health insurance plans, and continuing to provide subsidies to those who need it.

From experience, we know that freelancers benefit from pooling resources and shaping marketplaces to meet their needs. At Freelancers Union, we work to bring members together to help them find the right plans and to build power in markets - and collectively advocate for better health insurance options together. With 55 million Americans freelancing today, we have the power to influence the political conversation and build better systems for the future.

If you are seeking new health care during Open Enrollment this fall, please consider purchasing through us. Our site features plans handpicked for freelancers in the New York area from providers like Emblem, Oscar, and CareConnect. When you buy through us, a portion of your purchase goes back to the freelance workforce – at no additional cost to you. That means, the health insurance you have to buy anyway helps to fund a better solution for independent workers like you.

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about community, poetry and pop culture. Find her @Pennyscientist or on Freelancers Union.

Laura Murphy

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about community, poetry and pop culture.