Monday, November 24, 2008

Freelancers Union: Worst of the Worst

Freelancers Union, also known as Working Today, offers freelancers health insurance in 31 states. I signed up with them two or three years ago, when the National Writers Union lost its health insurance provider. It seemed like a good idea-- an organization for freelancers, by freelancers, to negotiate good health insurance rates for the group.

Ha!

I began experiencing trouble with their customer service right away. It was clear that the organization's president, Sara Horowitz, used lots of nice words that had no actual meaning. She wrote to us about their commitment to better customer service and how glad she was that people kept them accountable... then did nothing to improve anything, and ignored our letters.

To be more specific, I'll use my current example.

They made a math error on my August bill. I had overpaid for two months, and they owed me a refund. Instead, they charged me again. I began politely e-mailing; they refused to acknowledge the problem. They told me to call-- I did, and was put on hold for MORE THAN ONE HOUR, then hung up on.

You'd think that would be enough torment, but no, I called back-- and got hung up on again.

I e-mailed several times. Here's the main point I made:

I overpaid for two months at $1067.49 (total: $2134.98) when my plan cost $683.65 (total: $1367.30), so I should have been credited a total of $767.68. That would have meant one month (my 8/15 invoice) where I didn't have to make any payment, plus a credit of $84.03 toward the following month. Instead, I was charged $299.81, which means that only half of my overpayment was credited. Or I was charged for an extra month. Either way, I do not have a credit for the full $767.68 that I overpaid.


They have ignored me for weeks. I wrote again to let them know I had been on hold more than an hour, and asked them to call me instead. They did not.

Then-- surprise!-- they sprang a fast one on their members. They decided not to provide health insurance through other providers anymore. Instead, Freelancers Union would be its own health insurance company... with higher premiums and fewer benefits than members had in the past with other companies. No choice: all of us would be dropped from our current plans at the end of December. Hey, thanks for the notice!

Even people who had just registered for Freelancers Union last month specifically for the health plans offered were not informed that they would get only one month on the plan they selected, then be forced to switch to the (for-profit) plans offered by the brand new "FIC" (Freelancers Insurance Company).

So here I am on hold again. I'm typing this as I wait. So far, it's been 28 minutes. I think I'll go make lunch.

Here's a link to read more in the meantime: http://upsetfu.blogspot.com

UPDATE: After I stayed on hold for 31 MINUTES, they hung up on me again. Nice system!

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