Healthcare, Freelanced: Where Will Gig Economy Workers Get Coverage?
There are plenty of problems lurking on America’s career ladder, but here is a big one: our healthcare systems are designed for the workforce of 1950.
If you have a lifetime corporate 9-to-5 gig, then you probably have group health insurance.
But what if that is not the kind of job you have? Well, good luck with that.
More Americans than ever are falling into that second category, a scrappy mix of the self-employed, solo entrepreneurs, freelancers and contract workers. More than 57 million Americans, or 36 percent of the workforce, freelance, according to a recent study by the Freelancers Union.
Among millennials, that number rises to 47 percent. By 2027, if trends continue, the majority of the workforce is expected to be freelance.
Such a scenario will require new initiatives.
Stride Health, a kind of coverage matchmaker, has teamed up with companies whose employees are primarily independent – like Care.com, Etsy, Fiverr, DoorDash and Postmates – to funnel freelancers into the healthcare policies and plans that are right for them.
So far the coordinated push has been encouraging: With Postmates, about 30 percent of workers had Stride’s help navigating Obamacare exchanges, and 1,300 of them who did not have it previously secured coverage.
At Care.com, 85 percent of caregivers working with Stride received a subsidy for health coverage, at an average of $460.54 monthly.
“Like most gig workers, caregivers frequently work for more than one employer with no access to the benefits that those working for traditional employers take for granted,” said Bryan O’Malley, general manager at Care.com. “With more of a social safety net, we are helping provide critical benefits so caregivers can look after themselves and their own families.”
At the best of times, healthcare is a tricky thing to figure out. For independent workers, doubly so: Not only does their income fluctuate month-by-month, but the policies and premiums available to them are constantly in motion as well.
“If you are a freelancer facing the pure retail cost of healthcare, then it is horrifying,” says Kathy Hempstead, senior advisor for the Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to healthcare.
That is why the Affordable Care Act was a “total game-changer” for independent workers, Hempstead said. A system of subsidies helped pull millions into coverage, and plans compliant with the ACA offer a guarantee of a certain level of quality, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions.