Expanding Health Care Coverage

Project Title

Independent Workers Employment Benefits System

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Expanding Health Care Coverage

Date Awarded

July 19, 2007







An increasing number of American workers are employed in nontraditional arrangements as freelancers, independent contractors, or temporary workers.

These workers do not receive the work benefits customarily offered by employers, including health insurance. Most earn too much to qualify for public programs, but cannot afford the expensive premiums charged in individually purchased plans. With NYHealth’s support, Freelancers Union launched the Freelancers Insurance Company to make affordable health insurance available to New York City’s independent workers and also created a discount network with mental health providers, Freelancers Union Health Partners, in New York City. This initiative has shown that with collaboration, it’s possible for a nonprofit organization to launch an insurance company.

Because health plans on the individual market are prohibitively expensive, independent workers increasingly go without coverage, compromising both their health and financial stability. Working Today will continue to seek ways to offer affordable insurance coverage to independent workers.

Of the 2.2 million uninsured persons in New York State, more than 75% are working persons or family members of a working person. About half of uninsured persons in New York are either self-employed or working in a company that employs fewer than 25 people. The problem is particularly acute for low-income independent workers because health plans on the individual market are assigned the highest premiums and are prohibitively expensive for most of the independent workforce. Increasingly, low-wage workers are forced to go without health coverage—about half of the uninsured in New York are low-income workers (less than 200% of Federal Poverty Level).

In order to reach more uninsured independent workers and to have the flexibility to innovate health plan design, Working Today is taking advantage of funding from the New York Health Foundation (NYHealth), in addition to a number of other charitable organizations, to enhance its menu of health benefit offerings for the independent workforce. NYHealth’s funding will enable Working Today to offer more affordable health insurance coverage options to independent workers, many of whom lack alternatives. By providing coverage to the previously uninsured, Working Today will have an impact on not only the individuals and families now able to purchase insurance, but also the health insurance and health care industries. Working Today will also use these funds to experiment with the benefit design of its current offerings bringing consumer choice and well being to the center of plan design.