This could be good news for all of those uninsured freelancers out there.
Freelancers Union, a membership organization of about 170,000 independent workers, is launching a nonprofit, consumer-run health plan in New York.
The initiative is funded by $174 million in low-interest and no-interest federal loans. The insurance plans are being billed as “consumer operated and oriented plans,” or CO-OP, that aim to be more affordable, more accessible, and more responsive to the needs of all workers.
The Freelancers Union-sponsored CO-OP plans – part of the Affordable Care Act – will also be available in New Jersey and Oregon. They are slated to begin enrollment, pretty soon, in Fall 2013, and begin offering benefits in January 2014. The total federal loan investment for the three states is $340 million.
The Freelancers Union CO-OPs will be open to everyone, including independent workers typically shut out of the traditional healthcare market. Lower-income workers will also be eligible for support to cover their costs. Within five years of opening enrollment, Freelancers Union anticipates the CO-OPs will be insuring more than 100,000 New Yorkers and nearly twice as many across the three states.
“It’s like venture capital for healthcare,” said Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union. “By empowering nonprofit social entrepreneurs to compete with private insurers, CO-OPs provide a powerful new tool to bring more affordable options to the most people.”
Freelancers Union, through its wholly owned Freelancers Insurance Company (FIC), already provides health insurance to New York members.