Health Insurance thru Freelancer's Union
September 3, 2013 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with purchasing health insurance through the Freelancer's Union? Any feedback on the process and level of satisfaction with coverage would be appreciated.

My COBRA coverages from my last job runs out in November so I need to start figuring out what the best option for directly purchasing individual coverage is. Since I am 'freelancing' (mostly a euphemism for being unemployed) I thought I'd look at the Freelancers Union for options. I have never purchased insurance as an individual before so this whole process is confusing. Does anyone currently have this coverage? If so, what is your level of satisfaction, what should I look out for, why did you choose this over a purchase from a company like Blue Cross or Kaiser, is it a good deal, etc etc?

I'm at the beginning of this so any and all helpful information is appreciated. If it helps, I currently have Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey via COBRA. I cannot convert that to individual as I live in New York City (my previous employer was in NJ).
posted by spicynuts to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It is very expensive - a friend has it and pays $1200/month for himself and his wife. In NYC, Healthy NY is a better option. When I was on Healthy NY a few years ago my premiums were about $250/month for decent coverage. Additionally, starting in October you can apply under the insurance exchange for coverage that begins in January.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:47 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm not seeing a 1200 dollar plan on their website. I am single - the most expensive I see is 600 bucks. I'll check out HealthyNY though, thanks!
posted by spicynuts at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2013

Response by poster: Ok, HealthyNY is not an option due to the following:

"Mental health services and prescription drugs relating to mental health conditions, including but not limited to treatment and medication for ADHD, depression and anxiety"
posted by spicynuts at 11:57 AM on September 3, 2013

I have had health insurance through the Freelancer's Union for a few years now and I'm happy. I'm not sure where that $1200 figure came from -- maybe they have a different type of policy as they offer several different plans. I think all the plans and rates and info is on their site. I have one of the PPO options (PPO 3, I think), and it is around $330 or $340, but again the rates vary.

I am a pretty healthy individual so perhaps I haven't really put to much stress on the system to see if there are any weaknesses. However, since I am paying for it, I have made it a point to go in for annual exams and have never had any problems. I even had to go get a potential shoulder injury checked out by a physical therapist once and it was way easier than I though. I had gone to the doctor first thinking I needed a referral, but apparently I could have gone straight to the PT and just paid the copay. They have good documentation with rates, and you can probably find the PDF with all of the various policies and copays.

I also have one of their dental insurance plans and have never had a problem there either. Once when I was having a pretty major toothache I went in thinking I was going to get gouged and nervously asked the dentist for a list of their rates first and was surprised to find they had a menu-like printout of various charges. It was so much cheaper than I had ever imagined. I had heard so many horror stories, but was surprised at how much a lot of the procedures actually cost with the insurance.

The big thing for all of this is just starting with a list of doctors, dentists, etc and then finding someone near you that you like and that definitely takes your insurance without problems. It also helps if they have a few other docs and NPs in their clinic in case you need to pop in when your doc isn't available. Do that leg work on the phone first and you will be all set.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 2:16 PM on September 3, 2013

Keep in mind that, with the health insurance marketplace opening up in October, the number of options are about to majorly change. I know my HealthyNY bluecross plan, for example, is being discontinued. For what, I don't know--we won't find out until October.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:31 PM on September 3, 2013

Previously. My answer in that thread still applies. The deductibles haven't been rising as fast in the last couple of years, but I still think they're really high given the premiums. Some non-generic prescriptions have become more expensive. (The co-pay for Advair, which a lot of of people take for asthma, is $110.) Interesting note: I got a small rebate earlier this year because they exceeded the 20% profit allowable under the ACA.

I'm also interested to see what happens in October.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 4:47 PM on September 3, 2013

You have to qualify for the freelancer's union by showing a certain amount of freelance or temp income across a certain amount of time (20 hours per week for 8 weeks or $10,000 in the last 6 months. The eligibility requirements are on the website. They do seem to have some coverage for mental health although the number of visits are limited. You also have to bump up to a pretty expensive plan to get any coverage for non-generic drugs.

It sounds like you may not qualify, and your best bet may be to do HealthyNY as a bridge until the new plans become available next year. You can find sliding scale therapy, and get pretty good deals on drugs by checking GoodRx and Canadian mail order pharmacies.

As far as I know, there is no such thing as Kaiser in New York City, too bad for us. Also the only other not insanely expensive individual plan I could find (i.e. under $500) was a Blue Cross Blue Shield hospital coverage plan for around $200). Insurance in NYS is super expensive but also we are one of the states where Obamacare should really help with that. I can't wait!
posted by Salamandrous at 6:11 PM on September 3, 2013

Response by poster: Given how killing funding for Obamacare is the top priority of pretty much every Republican, I'm not sure how I feel about betting on it to be around come January or into the future. Am I nuts to not trust that path? My primary need is mental health coverage with my existing provider so as I said I don't think HealthyNY is gonna work for me. I'm planning on calling Empire BCBS tomorrow to see what they offer.
posted by spicynuts at 6:22 PM on September 3, 2013

HealthyNY is really the only viable option for non-freelancers insurance in a fairly-low-but-not-Medicaid income bracket (because they administer most of the lower-income plans, including Empire BCBS). And yeah, it's a little wacky not to trust the path of the ACA. The infrastructure is already in place, the plans have been approved (and there will be freelancers and Empire plans among them), there's really no reason to think it's going to go poof by January.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:33 PM on September 3, 2013

Given how killing funding for Obamacare is the top priority of pretty much every Republican, I'm not sure how I feel about betting on it to be around come January or into the future.

Plans go on sale in the exchanges for January in a month. For 2014 at least, there is no turning back, so don't rule that out. See what your options are in October.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:54 PM on September 3, 2013

I'm not seeing a 1200 dollar plan on their website. I am single - the most expensive I see is 600 bucks.

Any prices quoted before going through the underwriting process are just "best case" teasers. Your actual price is revealed only after underwriting. This is true for any insurer. $1,200/mo. isn't unusual for an adult couple.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on September 4, 2013

My primary need is mental health coverage with my existing provider

You should discuss your options with your provider. They may be willing to do a sliding scale option to continue your therapy through January when the ACA options become available. If it's medicine you need, they could potentially write you a script for a 90 day supply of meds to be filled before your COBRA coverage ends. Even under a new insurance plan you will most likely have a deductible of $500-5000 to meet before year end before coverage even starts, so paying out of pocket for a few months could very likely end up cheaper. You've been continuously insured it sounds like, so preexisting condition exclusions shouldn't be an issue, but something to keep in mind.

I'd still try to get at least a hospital indemnity plan, in case you get appendicitis or hit by a bus.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Man, I feel like I have a steep learning curve on all of this. Is there any downside to getting the freelancer's insurance for Nov/Dec then switching to an ACA Plan in January? In other words, is there any kind of strange penalty or flag that gets thrown for dropping a plan after 2 months in the risk algorithm of insurance companies?
posted by spicynuts at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2013

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