The Freelancers Union is telling its irate members today that enrollment forms for new health plans were sent to their new provider on Monday and that all of its members should have ID numbers by tomorrow. Or maybe not! According to one freelancer, Empire's customer service says that FU "had sent over 'only a handful' of enrollment forms, and that it could be weeks before everything is processed." Another union member tells us just the opposite: Blue Cross will backdate applications so that FU enrollees can visit health practitioners today, should they need to. Confusion! Mixed messages! "Needless to say, the Union fucked up completely," said the same member. Did the Freelancers Union learn nothing after helping organize striking Viacom permalancers last month? Cost-cutting happens everywhere and always will. But the way bad news is delivered is, in large part, how people will remember you as an organization. Quit screwing it up!
"They gave us three weeks to find new doctors, psychiatrists, etc. I was outraged," a union member told us. "FU bills itself as a savior and friend to the freelancers, but instead it's an inconvenient mess of an organization that seems like it's being run by a third party company that doesn't fully understand what it's doing."
Since the health plan switch was announced, we hear that FU's phones have been so clogged with members seeking guidance from customer service that the department was effectively shut down at certain points during the holidays. In fact, the Freelancers Union seems to have been rather unresponsive since November, according to several reports.
The package on offer to union members doesn't provide dental coverage—the old plan did. "Now I'm forced to switch to a new plan that offers no dental coverage at all, and I can't enroll in separate dental coverage until next fall—ridiculous," a freelancer (perhaps one with children in braces?) told us. "And you thought the
MTV freelancers were screwed." Well...yeah, we did.
Even with the rate bumps under the new plan, the union still provides more affordable health care to its members than Viacom wanted to provide for its permalance army. The FU's new plan covers care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering (the previous one didn't) and offers a larger physician network. And wait a second—the Freelancers Union used to offer dental? Talk about the life of Reilly!
That's not to say that union members don't have anything to complain about: besides this gap in coverage and the disappearance of their dental coverage, the union's new plan will set freelancers back $750 for a hospital stay. Lab tests performed as a result of any doctor's visit are subject to a member's $3,000 annual deductible, which is about a grand more than it used to be. Hey, diagnose yourselves, people! We suggest watching a lot of House or becoming a rabid clipper of the "Diagnosis" column from the Times magazine.