The Freelancers Union No Longer Providing Health Insurance

The Freelancers Union, which provides health insurance to 25,000 of its members in New York State, is ending an experiment in providing low-cost insurance to independent workers, saying the new landscape created by the federal Affordable Care Act makes it impossible to do so.

The union’s decision came after the state gave the Freelancers Insurance Company, which the union created in 2008, a one-year exemption from the act’s provisions so that it would have time to adjust.

But officials of the union said on Tuesday that to stay in business as an insurance provider, it would have to raise premiums by 14 percent across the board, a direct conflict with its reason for going into the insurance business in the first place. In 2014, monthly premiums for the plans, which were only offered in New York, averaged $502.

If they do nothing, the freelancers who belonged to the union plans will be automatically enrolled in one of an array of Empire BlueCross BlueShield plans with benefits that the union says mirror what it has, an assertion some members dispute. Members can also choose to buy insurance on their own. The current plans will expire at the end of the year. Some freelancers, who were notified of the change by email on Tuesday, said they were distressed to find that the Empire plans were different from their old ones in some critical ways.

Unlike some of the old plans, the new plans do not allow members to go outside a fixed network of doctors. The new network will have about 20 percent fewer doctors than the old network.

“I got the email today. I looked at it and said ‘Oy,’ ” said Josh Baran, a public relations consultant in Manhattan. Mr. Baran said his current freelancers’ plan allows him to go to any specialist in the network without a referral and with a $50 co-payment. Under the Empire plan recommended for him, he said, he would have a slightly lower premium but would need to referrals. Also, he said, the network has higher co-payments and fewer doctors.

Unlike some of the old plans, the new plans do not allow members to go outside a fixed network of doctors. The new network will have about 20 percent fewer doctors than the old network.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary