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Health Insurance for Freelancers

National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)

"The NASE is continually researching quality benefit programs for you. Your membership in the NASE makes it possible for us to negotiate valuable benefits at competitive rates."

FS-Discuss Responses regarding this insurer:

It's not the most inexpensive, but association membership has additional benefits. I am still looking for other alternatives, though, and would be interested in hearing about what you have found so far.

I met one of their agents at a business networking meeting

The lead story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal was "Nonprofit Groups That Tout Insurance Have Hidden Links: Associations That Offer Deals Are Often Set Up by Insurers; Rate Boosts Come Later." The main example they use in the story is the NASE, which was started up by the same guy who launched an insurance company called UICI. He founded NASE only a year after UICI. UICI is the sole insurer endorsed by NASE. So one way of looking at the NASE is that it's simply a sales channel for UICI.

There are several troublesome revelations about NASE's health insurance in the story. Their policies are convoluted and offer inadequate coverage ($300 to $400 a day for hospital room and board, for example, while the average cost is more like $700). A former UICI manager says that "They are training agents to trick the consumer" (altering benefit information in their sales materials, for example). And there are many anecdotes about dissatisfied customers.

A sidebar to the story offers these tips for sorting out the ties between nonprofits and insurers:

Be wary of associations that charge high enrollment fees ($100 or more).

Ask whether a portion of association dues are paid to insurance agents for enrolling members.

Ask the insurer if the same policy endorsed by the association is available to the general public. If so, joining the association may not be necessary.

There is much more good info in the story. If you're thinking about joining an association to get a good deal on health insurance, it's probably worth a trip to your local library to read the whole article: "Nonprofit Groups That Tout Insurance Have Hidden Links," Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2002.

I found NASE's insurance to be a waste of money too. They never paid a single claim... even trips to the emergency room were declined. I finally got tired of fighting them and cancelled the insurance.

Had NASE's [National Assn of Self-Employed] insurance before that and wouldn't advise using them. I paid for every single thing out of pocket, even routine dr's visits!

I had insurance from NASE for a couple of years. I switched to NASE when Regents dropped individuals like hot potatoes. The NASE insurer was MEGA Life & Health. I paid $185 a month, which included a monthly NASE membership fee. I used their legal service once, but none of the other member services.

I remember the NASE insurance sales rep was very, very aggressive, on the phone and in person. In the sales pitch, she implied that a hospital would accept $300 a night, even though their stated rate is $700, because Blue Cross and Blue Shield have negotiated $300 a night rates with hospitals. "Implied" is the key word, because in retrospect she never made that statement outright.

The sales pitch was very polished, right down to the almost total lack of printed materials. A sign of a highly trained sales pro is when they can make a convincing presentation without brochures or slides. (Even Dale Carnegie's professional sales program recommends some props.) She used a legal pad, and left none of her notes and diagrams behind. Only the forms and such were printed.

I had NASE's insurance for a couple of years, and never needed it. Their coverage was very flexible, allowing me to shape my own major medical/hospitalization plan. I paid basic office visits, etc., to keep the rate down. My partner and I just switched to a Regents group plan, and got whacked with the same 60% rate increase as everyone else.

Now we're looking into alternatives.

I know that other "s-corps" can get insurance thru them.
* I get health insurance through NASE, of which I'm a member, and I pay about $135 a month.

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