One of the few advantages of full-time work is the glorious benefit of having…benefits. Freelancers, especially those thrust into self-employment, don’t immediately think about what life is like without health insurance.
Fortunately, as the gig economy continues to grow, Freelancers Union, which has actually been around since 1995, has created a new benefits system specifically for lances who need to be freed (of debilitating medical costs). The National Benefits Platform offers everything from health and dental insurance to a flexible retirement plan that caters to the sporadic lives of freelancers.
Until now, there really weren’t many appealing (or easy) options for freelancers other than getting insurance through a spouse’s full-time job. Dan Lavoie, the director of strategy for Freelancers Union, said, “We want to make it as easy as possible to access the benefits, so we worked with our 250,000 members to make the best system we possibly could and include everything that they needed.” The system has a simple interface, and Freelancers Union hopes to have all of their featured benefits available to every zip code in the United States.
The building blocks for this project date back to 2009, when Freelancers Union launched the Freelancers Insurance Company to help their members based in New York City. Some of the notable aspects of the FIC plans are: free primary care in Brooklyn and Manhattan, free yoga and acupuncture, and flexible coverage outside of the primary care locations.
Once the national enrollment window opens in November 2014, all types of coverage will be available through the National Benefits Platform.
Lavoie is quick to note that this new system is about much more than just health insurance. “We also realized that there’s a whole suite of benefits that freelancers need to round out a full 360-degree life.” The National Benefits Platform provides many of the aspects of traditional benefits packages, such as dental, disability, liability, term life, and retirement.
The Union listened to feedback from its members and designed the system to be as good as, if not better than, the packages given to those at traditional full-time jobs. “One of the things that we’ve definitely seen is that … freelancing is the new normal,” Lavoie added. “We’re seeing how people are piecing together their incomes and their lives.”
One of the more innovative parts of the platform caters to that piecemeal lifestyle is the Freelancers Retirement Plan. Rather than locking members into a certain amount each month, as is the case with most 401k plans, the Union wanted to make it an easy decision that doesn’t put members at risk and lets them have control over how much they’re covered. “We realized that freelance income is kind of sporadic, so people can’t always put very much into a plan like that at a time, and it’s hard to agree to put in the same amount every month,” Lavoie said.
When Freelancers Union started in 1995, freelancers were coming into a very different economy than the one they find themselves in now. But for those who earn their income story by story, finding affordable insurance has always been a problem. Well, now that problem has a solution.