So how did she earn such accolade? For starters, in 2003 she formed a non-profit organization for disenfranchised workers who are given a paycheck, but no other job-related benefits.
Her motivation for doing so came when she landed her first job right out of law school, was classified as an independent contractor, and learned that she wasn’t eligible for any employer-sponsored health insurance or retirement plans.
When she realized that a huge percentage of the American workforce - tens of millions of workers - were in the same boat, she decided to become their advocate. And so far her efforts to bring together forlorn souls have been met with wild success – today the Freelancers Union has almost a quarter million members.
Of course, it didn’t take Sara long to understand that, since these folks weren’t receiving health insurance through their employer, then unless they happened to have coverage through their spouse, the majority were simply going without it.
As an aside, this encompasses a would-be riddle I’ve posed for over 10 years:
Q: “What do about 90% of Americans who don’t have health insurance, also
have in common?”
A: “They all work.”
Enter Grand Opportunity Number Two. Capitalizing on this void, Horowitz made a giant leap when she used her Freelancers Union to create a brand new health insurance provider, the Freelancers Insurance Company (FIC), in 2008.
Initially unprofitable in its first year, the company steadily has grown (and turned some serious coin), ever since. It now insures over 25,000 New Yorkers, is expanding its reach into the national market, and is building a network of “no co-pay” primary care clinics for its members. By the end of 2014, FIC is poised to generate over $100 million in revenue.
Something must be working right.
So, what’s the secret to all this success? Is it genius, health insurance innovation, or just marketing? Since it is wholly owned by the Freelancers Union, FIC is dedicated to improving the lives of the employed who can’t get benefits through their employment; in essence providing group rates to those who aren’t in a traditional group.
And as Sara herself wrote on the website in June, the company plans to offer a national “suite of curated, freelancer-focused benefits.” In the Slate article that claims she "created affordable health care benefits for freelancers," Sara describes her epiphany after she had analyzed data on the costs and benefits, when she discovered “I can make it work better. I can be more efficient. I can do it myself.”
Those lofty words from its ex-labor lawyer turned CEO aside, does the “social-purpose” Freelancers Insurance Company really offer a unique and valuable treat to its members that they can't get elsewhere? Or is this just another trick?
To answer that question, I used the Wacasey Equation and compared the FIC policies I found here, to see how the benefits really stack up:
- A single person will spend $3,936 in extra premiums for the Platinum plan, just to
potentially save $1,164 off the total should they be hit by a train.
- The married couple will spend $1,852.32 extra to have the Silver plan, which would
cancel out their potential savings of $1,852.32 off the total if they had a catastrophe.
- A single parent with two children will spend $4,431.24 in extra premiums to go for the
Gold, when they might only save $3,268.76 off the total.
- And last but not least, a Platinum family plan would have you pay over $11,200 more in
premiums, just to spend another $1,017 in total if you get really, really sick.
As it turns out, there really isn’t much of a difference at all between the health insurance policies offered by the Freelancers Insurance Company, and all the others I’ve put to the test with the Wacasey Equation so far.
Except one. When I plugged in my personal info (see The Good, The Bad, and The Bronze from 09/12/2014) to the ehealthinsurance.com website, and put down my ZIP as 10020 in Manhattan, I was surprised: in every single case, the Freelancers policies were more expensive – anywhere from $1,400 to over $6,300 a year – than their counterparts listed through state carriers.
Because, just like another new, big-box, franchised, pizza delivery chain, she’s managed to repackage the same old product and sell the heck out of it – even at a higher price! - by claiming it’s something that, if the truth be told, it just ain’t.
Great job, Sara. You go, girl.