Monday, August 12, 2013

Union that sells health insurance to workers without benefits now offers state's lowest rates to others

The Post-Standard featured an article on the Health Exchange and new carriers participating:
A Brooklyn union that sells affordable health insurance to nannies, writers and other freelance workers without job benefits is casting its net out to a larger audience of New Yorkers with the state's lowest rates.
The Freelancers Union has set up a new type of nonprofit health insurance cooperative on New York's health benefit exchange that will begin selling insurance to individuals and small businesses statewide Oct. 1.
The Freelancers co-op, funded by the federal government, has the lowest health insurance rates in nearly every category of coverage on the exchange in Syracuse and every other part of the state.
In Syracuse, for example, the co-op's monthly price for a standard "silver" individual plan that covers on average 70 percent of medical costs is $291.14. That's nearly 31 percent below average in the Syracuse market where six insurers will be selling the same plan at monthly rates as high as $533.23 when the exchange opens for business Oct. 1.
The Freelancers Union has more than 200,000 members, over half of them in New York state. It does not negotiate labor contracts like traditional unions, but it does operate a for-profit health insurance company, Freelancers Insurance Company, that provides insurance to more than 23,000 of the union's members. The co-op it is starting in New York will be a separate nonprofit company called Health Republic Insurance. While the Freelancers Union only sells insurance to freelancer members, the co-op will sell insurance to anyone eligible to buy insurance on the exchange.
Lack of benefits inspired union's founder
The union was established in 2003 by Brooklyn native Sara Horowitz, whose grandfather was the vice president of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Her inspiration to organize the union came after she landed a job at a Manhattan law firm and discovered she was not an employee, but an independent contractor with no benefits. Her union caters to the economy's rapidly growing hodgepodge of independent workers.
Horowitz received a genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation in 1999, is a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and is the author of "The Freelancer's Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams - On Your Terms." She also has political connections in Albany and Washington, D.C. The New York Times reported she has close ties to state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
The New York health benefit exchange will be a marketplace where consumers can comparison-shop for health insurance, sort of like shopping online for a hotel room or airline ticket. The exchange is part of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance by Jan. 1 or face a financial penalty.
Freelancers is a new player in the Syracuse area
The state recently approved rates for 17 insurers planning to sell coverage on the exchange. Six of them - American Progressive, CDPHP HMO, Excellus, Freelancers, MVP and Fidelis -- will operate in the Syracuse area. Freelancers and American Progressive are new to the area.
Monthly premiums on the state's new health benefit exchange for a "silver" individual plan in Syracuse that covers an average 70 percent of medical costs. CDPHP HMO: $533.23
American Progressive: $461.39
Excellus: $457.74
MVPHP-HMO: $438.52
New York Fidelis: $341.34
Freelancers: $291.14
Syracuse average: $420.56

Co-ops, a little-known byproduct of Obamacare
Debra Friedman, president and CEO of the new co-op, said its low rates reflect its mission to provide affordable coverage.
Debra Friedman, president and CEO of Health Republic, a new health insurance co-op in New York started by the Freelancers Union. 
"We only have the members' interests at heart," Friedman said. "It's not like we are a public company and we have to meet profit margin expectations of stock analysts."
Freelancers criticized for seeking Obamacare loopholes
A little noticed section of Obamacare called for the creation of "Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans," or co-ops, to increase competition and improve consumer choice on state health exchanges. Congress originally allocated $6 billion for loans to start co-ops, but cut that amount as part of the "fiscal cliff" budget deal at the end of 2012. The government ended up awarding nearly $2 billion in loans to create co-ops in 24 states.
The Freelancers Union received $174.4 million to set up a co-op in New York and another $167 million to start co-ops in New Jersey and Oregon.
New insurance model attracts praise, criticism
Some analysts are enthusiastic about co-ops because they believe the new plans will foster competition and provide consumers with more affordable choices. Others have questioned the wisdom of spending federal money to start up new health plans to compete against well-established health insurers. Some Republicans in Congress have predicted taxpayers will lose a significant amount of money through the co-op program.
An analysis by the Urban Institute said the combination of federal loans, tax-exempt status and the freedom of not having to appease investors may help co-ops keep prices low. But to succeed over the long term, co-ops will need to attract large numbers of enrollees, the analysis said.
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the government has loaned money to entities demonstrating a high probability of financial viability. CMS said it will closely monitor co-ops to ensure they are meeting program goals and will be able to repay loans.
Friedman said Freelancers' New York co-op received enough federal funding to cover operating expenses and maintain an adequate financial cushion, required by the state, to protect against losses, for five years.
Under federal law, co-ops must be nonprofit, governed by members and any profit they generate has to be used to lower premiums or improve benefits. More than 51 percent of the New York co-op's board members will be members of the health plan, Friedman said.
Consumers advised not to buy insurance based on price alone
Just because the Freelancers co-op has the lowest prices does not necessarily mean its insurance will be the best deal for all consumers, said Elisabeth Benjamin, co-founder of Health Care for All New York, a statewide coalition of consumer groups advocating for affordable health care.
Before choosing a plan, consumers will need to find out if their doctors, hospitals and other providers participate in the plan and how much the deductibles and co-pays are, she said. The state has not disclosed those details yet about any of the exchange plans.
When the exchange opens Oct. 1, consumers will be able to look at all those factors and compare plans on an apples-to-apples basis.
Thomas Flynn, a health benefits consultant with Mercer in Rochester, said he expects price to play a big factor on the exchange because many buyers will be young people purchasing health coverage for the first time.
"They are intimately familiar with shopping for and comparing hard drives, processors and computers, but as far as what doctor accepts the insurance, I don't think they are thinking that far ahead yet," Flynn said.
Health plans with low prices may have limited networks
Insurers with low prices often have more limited networks of doctors, hospitals and other providers, said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Friedman said she could not estimate how many providers in the Syracuse area will be participating with the Freelancers co-op because its service area has not been finalized yet. She said the coop expects to sell coverage in Onondaga and Cayuga counties, but not Oswego and Madison counties. It will use a provider network operated by MagnaCare, which does business in New York and New Jersey.
Friedman predicted the co-op will make a big difference in health care in New York.
"The co-op is an innovative solution to the tremendous challenges individuals and small businesses have had finding accessible and affordable health care," she said.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CNY Community Foundation Announces New Board Officers

August 6, 2013 (Syracuse, NY) – The Central New York Community Foundation Board of Directors appointed four new officers.
The following four members were appointed to serve as Board chair, vice chair, compliance officer and treasurer, respectively:
HartsockLinda Dickerson Hartsock was appointed as Chairperson
Director of Community Engagement and Economic Development, Syracuse University
Linda is responsible for managing university initiatives that engage faculty, students, and staff in transformative community projects. Previously, Linda has worked as the Vice President of Innovation and Technology for CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity and was the Executive Director of The Clean Tech Center, an award winning NYSERDA clean energy incubator. She has also served on a variety of state task forces, advisory committees, and corporate boards.
MoynihanDavid J. Moynihan, CPA, CGMA was appointed as Vice Chairperson and Chair of the Governance Committee
Partner, Testone Marshall & Discenza, LLP
David is responsible for his firm’s Audit Practice Group and has extensive audit and consulting expertise in construction, manufacturing, and not-for-profit organizations. He is an active member of several professional organizations including the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and has served as the treasurer for the Spanish Action League and Partners for Education and Business.

ScolaroRobert D. Scolaro was appointed as Compliance Officer and Chair of the Audit Committee
Attorney, The Wladis Law Firm, PC
Rob has worked for The Wladis Law Firm since 2011. He specializes in estate planning and administration, asset preservation for businesses and individuals, and elder law. He has served as a board and committee member for various community organizations including Tully Hill, the American Red Cross of Central New York, and the SADA Charity Preview for Hospice of Central New York.

Richard D HoleRichard D. Hole was appointed as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee
Partner, Bond Schoeneck & King, PLLC
Rich is the Chairman of Bond Schoeneck and King’s Management Committee and has extensive experience developing non-qualified deferred compensation plans, employee stock ownership plans, and other qualified retirement plans. He also maintains a comprehensive practice in health care law, providing advice and counsel to boards and committees of hospitals on governance and regulatory issues.
Established in 1927, the Central New York Community Foundation encourages local philanthropy by supporting the growth of a permanent charitable endowment for the betterment of the region.  The Community Foundation is the largest charitable foundation in the region with assets of more than $143 million. It awarded $8.3 million in grants last year to nonprofit organizations and since its inception has invested more than $120 million in the community. The Community Foundation serves as the steward of charitable legacies for individuals, families and corporations through the administration of more than 600 funds. The organization also serves as a civic leader, convener and sponsor of special initiatives designed to strengthen nonprofits that address the region’s most pressing challenges. For more information, visit

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tumblr: When You Work at a Nonprofit

Central New York Volunteer Fair Company News, The Gifford Foundation Has Awarded Grants to Nonprofit and Community Groups

Company news: The Gifford Foundation has awarded grants to nonprofit and community groups | The Post-StandardBy | The Post-Standard 
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on July 31, 2013 at 10:58 AM, updated July 31, 2013 at 11:04 AM
• The Gifford Foundation has announced the following grants to nonprofit and community groups:
Community grants: CancerConnects; Catholic Charities of Onondaga County; Clear Path for Veterans; The Everson Museum of Art; The Fayette Street Boys and Girls Club; The Food Bank of Central New York; Home Aides of Central New York; Red House Arts Center; Syracuse Poster Project; Syracuse Stage.
"What If..." mini grants: 338 Gifford Street; High Octane Youth Basketball; Northside Karate; The Reducing Teen Violence In our Neighborhood Initiative; T.E.A.M. Rock; Toomey Abbott Resident Association; The Westside Youth Advisory Council; Women Transcending Boundaries.
• VIP Development Associates, Inc. announced the purchase of CenterState CEO's 22,000 SF headquarters office building at 572 S Salina St., Syracuse.
• U.S. Small Business Administration has granted $95,000 to The Research Foundation for the State University of New York.
• Syracuse Opera announced that it has met its $69,786 goal to receive matching funds from a recent Onondaga County Challenge grant.
• WonderWorks, received their LEED© Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council this month, in their location at Destiny USA.
• Woodmen of the World has awarded Destiny USA with the environmental award.
• Bond Schoeneck & King has been named in the top 10 of the "Thirty Best Labor and Employment Law Firms" by