Open Phones: Freelance Security

Friday, November 21, 2008

As the economy takes a down-turn, more and more full-time employees are being fired; and more and more companies are relying on temporary staffing. So, do freelancers feel more secure than people with full-time jobs? Comment below!

Comments [42]


There were a lot of complaints about the Freelancers Union's insurance programs a year ago. It would be interesting to hear how things may have changed since then, as the Union's own insurance company has gotten more settled.

Nov. 12 2009 04:31 PM
Jenna from NY

Sara Horowitz was indeed a poor choice. She has been ignoring members' concerns for as long as I can remember. In addition to this disgusting bait-and-switch she's just pulled, check out their customer service. I just waited on hold for 31 minutes, then got hung up on. I was calling to tell them they still owe me a refund-- since August-- due to a billing error on their parts that they refuse to acknowlege. I waited on hold last week for more than an hour before they "accidentally" hung up on me. E-mails are ignored as well.

No, I will never fall for the Freelancers Union again. Sara is not "one of us." She uses pretty speech words, but there is nothing of substance to it. Bring her back on and ask her the tough questions-- why is her organization so terrible in its treatment of freelancers?

Nov. 24 2008 04:16 PM
tia from east village

it's kind of hard to count, but, conservatively, almost 50 people have signed the letter on the upsetfu blog.

Nov. 23 2008 10:59 AM
James from Manhattan

...continued from above...

Real insurance companies take premiums, invest them in things like commercial real estate, and pay claims from the returns on the investments. Clearly, big is better in a case like this. Freelancers Union is no bigger than a mid-sized company (a traditional CUSTOMER of insurance companies), and has no business trying to "self-insure". Even if they were to do so, in which vehicles might they invest? This is not a good time to be assured of success in the crucial 'Investment" side of the business. This scheme is either based upon delusions of grandeur, or is a simple "Pyramid Scheme" where today's claims will be paid directly with yesterday's premiums until it all comes crashing down due to an inability to find investments that can perform well. (Too bad Elliot Spitzer is no longer around, but we should contact Andrew Cuomo and ask for an investigation.)

Nov. 23 2008 09:25 AM
James from Manhattan

Given the number of people who were sold coverage without mention that the insurance being sold would be effective for only a month or so, the only remaining option appears to be a suit filed by those who were defrauded by the deceptive business practices of Freelancers Union, and a creation of a class-action by the entire class of suddenly under-insured paying FU members.

The fraudulent misrepresentations were made by a "Fiduciary". A "fiduciary duty" is the highest standard of care at either equity or law.

There is no rating for the so-called Freelancer's Insurance Company on A.M. Best, or on any other of the bond/investment/insurance ratings services. This means that the "offering" from Freelancers Union is pure puffery, or a completely speculative venture, with no standard metrics available to be able to judge the survivability of the venture.

Further, there are basic questions that remain unanswered about simple things, like "Do coinsurance payments for X-rays and MRIs count towards the deductibles?" and "What is the maximum out-of-pocket one pays for each plan?". No sane person picks an insurance plan without such basic information.

Tuesday, Nov 25th is the last day that "2008" premiums can be locked in over at Mediabistro, so Freelancers have little or no time to research the options. Heck, we still don't even know what "Facility Co-insurance" means, do we?

Nov. 23 2008 09:24 AM
julian miller

You consider accepting anything that is thrown your way and "believing" as something to be proud of. How is that positive?
Are willed ignorance and blind following virtues? They are for autocrats and dictators who need followers.
Your comments display a stunning ignorance of how any changes were effected in the history of human civilization.

But maybe you haven't been sheared recently so all the wool is blinding you and affecting your hearing.

Nov. 22 2008 08:20 AM
Jk from brooklyn

accepting. sorry.

Nov. 21 2008 08:18 PM
Jk from brooklyn

I strongly disagree with Mr. Hov. I work with numerous freelancers with the same health care plan and not only the most expensive one, and almost all of them are upset or at least annoyed by the change of plan and the way FU handled it. I don't knwo who are this "us" he keeps saying, but those us are not helping by just excepting the power of the market. We might be powerless to the holiness of market, but we do have a right to criticize what's wrong.

Nov. 21 2008 08:11 PM
Robert Hov from Queens, NY

Thank you for your response.
I was sorry to hear that that is your situation - at the same time allow me to wish you and your wife mazal tov (your name is jewish/Israeli no?).

Your situation is terrible. Can you switch to another provider? quickly? I hope so. All the best to you and your wife.

@Miller, LDNY, laur, nancy -
How are you helping to change the system? Negative press is just another attempt to kill any type of change. I hope you're not going to run to the press when prez-elec Obama changes your income tax rates. I'm not in a safe place economically either. Call me a dreamer or whatever you’d like. Nevertheless, I just have to believe that this is the beginning of something better. Sure it started really badly (for some more then others). Then again, show me beginnings that are easy? when was the last time someone tried to do something new in the health care arena in this country? never? why kill it before it starts and for the rest of us? just because you need a "quick fix" to your issues? channeling your anger on the rest of us just seems wrong. Now back to work. I've spent enough time reading these blogs, and comments and such. This is health insurance not national elections.

Nov. 21 2008 06:50 PM

Congratulations to Mr. Hov for having no “demanding medical conditions.” I know exactly how he feels, as I was a premium paying healthy single who rarely needed the services of a doctor, for several years. Then, alas, my wife was hit with the demanding medical condition of a pregnancy, and we bought into FU’s most comprehensive (and, yes, most expensive) health plan, only to learn, after two short weeks, that our type of costumers are no longer welcome. Too bad they couldn’t tell us that before we signed on, because we have no way back now to our previous plan, which has a waiting period for covering a pregnancy.

The fact that no-one knows were health care insurance is going generally in this country, is all the more reason to tread carefully, and not to axe a good plan that’s working for people who need it.

Furthermore, unless you work for FU, you’d have no idea how many people are hurt by this. The blog upsetFU has been visited by way more than 10-20 people. Not everyone is a letter-writing blog reader, and we have no direct communication with members of FU. There is no directory of members that we can access. All we can do is try to communicate to others in a similar situation to ours, through blogs and such.

Finally, I gather your program didn’t change very much. So keep it. Good luck when the time comes when you actually need their costumer service.


Nov. 21 2008 04:06 PM
julian miller from Brooklyn, NY

Robert Hov.

You are disingenuous and accusatory without providing any concrete fact to back up your criticisms of we who are concerned about FU. "Trolling" that's a red herring - the upsetfu site defaults to anonymous comments - you cannot post anonymously at the FU comments and we started there. To this day Horowitz has not responded to our concerns. As I stated above - I can get better insurance for less money as an individual in the open market - so then what is the point of FU/FIC???

Nov. 21 2008 04:00 PM
julian miller from Brooklyn, NY

I have the FU Empire BC/BS POS Plan. I was appalled when I received the email on Nov. 11th informing me of the new FIC plans. The new plans are WORSE and more expensive than what I can get as an individual in the open market - check for proof of this. I wish I could bill FU for all the time I have spent researching for a replacement policy in the short time window that Horowitz force on us.
I feel duped by Horowitz and FU - it all seems like just marketing to liberals without any substance. And Horowitz has steadfastly refused to answer our questions up to this point.
This a one mean trick to pull in this economy. Horowitz keeps talking about solidarity yet she has shown neither solidarity nor sympathy for us, the members of her health plan.
The word "Union" galls me b/c it is a word devoid of meaning in the context of this organization. Sara has done as she has wanted to do; she hid the formation of this questionable venture; she implied that she had engaged in good faith negotiations with BC/BS when she never did for the coming year. The lies, misrepresentations and omissions are numerous and show that Horowitz has severe credibility issues and an utter disconnection to the dues paying members of FU. I am leaving FU hope others will too b/c Horowitz has failed to advocate for anyone but herself.

Nov. 21 2008 03:54 PM

The blog that most people from Freelancers Union are using is not the one posted on the previous posts but this one:

If anyone is really looking for insurance and needs coverage for December, you will find concrete information here.

Nov. 21 2008 03:26 PM

Freelancers Union people are on the blog below more than the other that was previously posted. You will find much more info and specific options on here. if you want to be covered for December:

Nov. 21 2008 03:21 PM
Robert Hov from Queens, NY

Dear Mr. Lehrer. I'm a fan. I've been reading the upset blog. I've also read the Freelancers Union blog as well as member chatter. It seems to me that these are the same small group people of about 10-20 members who are frustrated and angry at the new changes. Furthermore, seems like most of these members belong to same plan out of the five that are offered to us by the FU (most expensive plan). It also seems like these individuals are hurting (and rightly so) by FU not providing them with the patch to get over their demanding medical conditions. We, as freelancers, must be realistic with the powers (or lack of) of the market, the state of the health insurance industry and the changes coming our way with prez-elect Obama. Premiums go up once a year, every year. Furthermore, according to FIC it is a for-profit which has a single shareholder - FU which is a non for profit. Which means no one really owns FIC. . A health insurance company with no greedy share holders.

These changes are done. Seems like these changes can only be modified prior to open enrollment. Instead of reacting to the changing market and moving on, this group is trying to destroy these benefits for the rest of us.

As for Sara H - I've viewed numerous attempts of trolling. Sure, FU did not do a good job and screwed a group of us. Nothing justifies trolling. Especially by anonymous users.

Finally, I disapprove with this small group of the same 10-20 people that are trying to represent our entire group.

Nov. 21 2008 03:20 PM
laur from ny from new york

Freelancers Union has really messed up. It might sound like a lot of whiners, but really, these complaints are spot on. It appears that there is now no annual maximum for outpatient surgery in their PPO plan (but, wow, is it hard to figure out); and there definitely is no max for diagnostic outpatient testing--and lots of other very hard to grasp loopholes that none of us have ever seen before.

Meanhile, Ms. Horowitz, bless her heart, keeps the focus on the future utopia she envisions. Where are her maidens in honor who can guide us through the reality of health insurance. She is utterly disconnected on this--a visionary with no one it seems to ground her. Help! Can the Ford or Rockefeller foundation or some such step in and salvage this disaster? Thank you!

Nov. 21 2008 01:58 PM

Please invite Ms. Horowitz back to answer listeners as to why FU needs to own its own health insurance company, which they are not ready to manage. Insuring through Empire BC/BS worked very well for us. Why did they mislead new members to sign up with a health insurance plan that they did not intend to keep? It put many people in a very difficult bind, with less than six weeks to find a new solution.

Please also correct my typo from previous post:
“It's not clear whose interests She (not he) represents.”

More info on

Thank you Brian.

Nov. 21 2008 01:02 PM
nancy from nyc

Maybe you should invite Sara back to explain how she duped new members into signing up for Freelancer's Union's old, perfectly good, insurance only one month later to be told they would be switched to this new miserable plan. Those with such "preexisting conditions" as pregnancy now find they are stuck with thousands of dollars in new co-pays and deductibles since they can't switch back to their old insurance. And instead of chatting about something she knows nothing about--the plight of money-strapped freelancers--she should spend more time answering the questions of her members.

Nov. 21 2008 01:00 PM
LDNY from 11201

Sara Horowitz and Freelancers Union have BETRAYED their members by taking away a comprehensive and affordable (relatively speaking) benefits plan (Empire BC/BS Direct POS, along with the EPO Plans) and replacing it with INFERIOR AND OVERPRICED PPO plans offered by their own newly-formed FIC ins comp.

The new plans ARE NOT COMPARABLE IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY and provide significantly less coverage for a significantly higher premium. My current POS plan costs me $382/mo and the co-pays and deductibles are fair. The new plan they claim is comparable will be $455/mo and has much higher co-pays and larger deductibles.

Sara Horowitz and FU claim to care about Freelancers and pretend to care about the health, welfare and well-being of their booming membership base, but this move - and giving us only 2 mos notice to pick one of these new inferior plans - is disgusting and insulting and Sara and the rest of the administration at FU should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

I am currently investigating other options for obtaining new health ins coverage for 2009. If I have to give up my current plan and accept inferior coverage, which FU is forcing me to do, I'd rather give another organization and another insurance company my membership and premium dollars every month. Freelancers Union's own initials sum up my feelings toward them these days quite well. Way to go, FU - you managed to screw your members over in the very way that you once set out to protect us from. Good riddance.

Nov. 21 2008 12:59 PM
Carolyn from Manhattan

In addition to the blog, mentioned above by a couple of us, please see yesterday's Gawker article:

Nov. 21 2008 12:51 PM

The thing about freelance work (I'm an illustrator) is that you never know when it's going to be a good year or a bad year. Last year, when all was well with the economy, I made no money. This year I made more than double than last and have never had more inquiries, new clients and jobs as I've had in the last two months. I'm not gloating -- far from it. I just always have a feeling that things are uncertain and that bad times can be right around the corner as well as good. Living in perpetual uncertainty about making a living has made me a little bit immune to what's going on. I worry, but not as much as someone with a full time job. I also save lots of money and live way below my means, which is something a lot of Americans should (and will probably be forced) to learn to do.

Nov. 21 2008 12:49 PM
nancy from nyc

I agree Sara Horowitz was a bad choice of guests. She has engendered nothing but ill will from the members of her "union." It's a horribly run organization; I can only imagine how they're going to be able to run an insurance company! Please stop giving this woman grants and accolades.

Nov. 21 2008 12:28 PM

Sara Horowitz' and FU recent radical change of health insurance caused great harm to members of FU. Please go to for details. It's not clear who's interests he represents.

Nov. 21 2008 12:14 PM
sam from brooklyn, ny

Having lived through the previous recession as a freelancer, I do feel that economic downturns tend to generate more gigs. When companies get rid of their employees, there is still work that needs to get done.

The only concern I have is that maybe some new freelancers are not asking for what they're worth and thus pull down the rates for other freelancers.

Too bad there isn't guide with going rate ranges for specific markets and experience level.

Nov. 21 2008 12:07 PM
Barbara from Lower East Side

I've been a freelance writer and editor for many years and feel relatively secure as I know how to cope with lean times. If you don't enjoy living on the edge, you shouldn't be a freelancer in the first place.

Nov. 21 2008 11:54 AM
nf from nyc

I agree the Freelancers Union founder is NOT the right person to interview for this segment. Please revisit this topic with someone more knowledgeable about the business of a freelancer. Possibly the head a 2 different professional organizations, i.e.- Photography org and Writers org.

Nov. 21 2008 11:43 AM
Linda from Fairfield County CT

Artists are definitely feeling the crunch in this recession. Past recessions didn't have such extreme plummeting banking/financial industry losses, so there were still plenty of rich people to buy art.

I've had 2 galleries close this month, thus requiring more effort to find new venues.

I'm hoping Obama's jobs programs include funding for the arts - these are entrepreneurial jobs too.

Nov. 21 2008 11:43 AM
tia from east village

your guest from the freelancer's "union" just mentioned a "safety net". what about our health insurance? they just made themselves our provider and raised our rates. they spent years advertising and drawing in freelancers and now they have thousands of instant clients. why isn't this being reported?

Nov. 21 2008 11:41 AM
brian from long island

I've been a computer consultant for 15 years now, I rely on Freelancer union for low cost health insurance for me and my family. It's a great service for all freelancer in New York area. But their rate has gone up just like everyone else.

Nov. 21 2008 11:41 AM
Mary from UWS

Wish Andrea would ask Sara of the FU about her health plans for freelancers in NY next year, the new FIC plans. They are more expensive than ever and coverage is much worse.

Nov. 21 2008 11:41 AM

problem is freelancers undercutting each other

Nov. 21 2008 11:41 AM
ch from NJ

My story:
I'm now hiring myself out as Rent-A-Wife, personal assistant, on Craigslist because my husband's CTO job in a technology company is in peril due to lack of investment money.

My skills are so general that the full-time jobs I would get otherwise only pay about half what I could (ostensibly) make as a freelancer.

Everything is still in the balance, though, so I'm not sure whether I can say I feel more or less secure.

Nov. 21 2008 11:40 AM

Photography freelance field is dieing fast. Clients want to pay less & less for work and usage. With digital cameras everyone is a photographer. People are taking jobs for $100 or for free. This is undercutting the standards for the market. How do these people pay rent?!

Nov. 21 2008 11:40 AM
Carolyn from Manhattan

I'm such a huge fan of the Brian Lehrer show, but I really hope that for a future show you'll find someone who can represent the concerns of freelancers better than Sara Horowitz can. (I'll think about this and try to get back to you with suggestions.)

Her new healthcare plans are wreaking havoc in the lives of thousands of NYC freelancers. Please see

Thank you so much for considering my suggestions.

Nov. 21 2008 11:38 AM
Amy from Manhattan

As a freelancer, I have multiple "employers." It's more complicated to juggle than a single job, but if I lose one or two, I'll still have income from the others while I work to replace the ones I lost. Who knew? It turns out to be smart not to have all your eggs in one basket.

Nov. 21 2008 11:35 AM
Janet Heath from Manhattan

How inappropriate to be interviewing Sara Horowitz about security and benefits for freelancers in a time of economic downturn. Freelancers Union has just cut the rug out from under its members by announcing on Nov. 11th that the health plans they're offering will no longer be available as of Jan. 1st. They made no mention of this when people like me enrolled in their plans as recently as Nov. 1st. They've formed their own insurance company and the plans they're offering carry higher cost with lesser coverage -- for example, one plan changes from a $0 copay for an MRI to a 20% coinsurance and from a $750 copay for hospitalization to a $1000 deductible + 15% coinsurance. So instead of aggressively pursuing work in these unpredictaable times, I and many others are working practically full time trying to find new health insurance.

Nov. 21 2008 11:34 AM
Jennifer from Brooklyn

As a freelancer, a big comfort to me, in this economic turmoil, is that I can't lose my job. Even if work is getting a little slower, by virtue of the fact that my income comes from many sources, I'm not going to be cut off. Of course I need to work a little harder at getting new clients, but I can also work more and increase my income. My income is in my own hands.

Nov. 21 2008 11:34 AM
michael connors from

As a freelancer I can say I have seen a increase in calls from recruiters. Usually during downturns a lot of people get laid off, but when a project comes through they will hire a freelancer since there is less regular staff.

Nov. 21 2008 11:32 AM
tia from east village

how can the freelancer's union still claim to represent the interests of freelancers when they have just recently become a private insurance company?

Nov. 21 2008 11:32 AM
LeoinNYC from Soho

I certainly don't feel immune from the crisis. I just don't have as far to fall. I already go unemployed for stretches of time; I already have no healthcare and benefits. So all I have to lose is cash, and I already have plenty of experience with paying my rent late and having my phone turned off. It sucks, but it's not that scary.

Nov. 21 2008 11:31 AM

i do freelance digital retouching and have one main client and a few other, more sporadic ones. so far i've had no decline in work.. . .but i am afraid that it will start to trickle out. . .

Nov. 21 2008 11:30 AM
EvilPRGuy from Brooklyn NY

I feel much less secure as a freelancer currently than I did two years ago.

Everyone from mom and pop shops to huge failing corporations are tightening their belts, and I've heard 'We just can't afford it right now' from clients much more often than usual. There's still work, but budgets are shrinking.

The entire media industry is losing jobs very quickly, and no one is hiring in-house, so the market for freelance writing, pr, producing and all the associated fields feels much more crowded than ever.

Nov. 21 2008 11:11 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.