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Demand Studios Offers Health Insurance

umbrellaYep, Demand Studios is now offering at least some of their creatives health insurance. Here’s a roundup:

Here is DS announcement: http://www.demandstudios.com/health-insurance.html.

This is what Jenn over at All Freelance Writing had to say about it: Demand Studios Health Insurance – Objective Overview of FlexShield Benefits.

Allena, the Freelance Writing Guide at About.com had a post called Demand Studios Offers Health Insurance? Whaaaat?

Deb Ng offered Demand Studios Announces Health Care Options for its Freelancers then followed up with:  A Few More Words About this Whole Demand Studios Insurance Thing.

I’ve got to say I’m blown away. When I was with About.com we often asked for some sort of group health insurance to absolutely no avail. (I don’t know if it’s available to Guides now.)

Much of my career I was totally uninsured, one of the reasons I’m in favor of a Canadian-style single payer program. (Ducking for cover from some of our more conservative readers.) I’ve listened with sadness as our President first dropped single payer then went hands-off entirely. Meanwhile I’ve watched the right and the Blue Dogs chip away until the public option hardly seems worthwhile.)

Yes, I get that the DS insurance offering is anything but deluxe – but it’s something. I would have welcomed this earlier in my career and I think the company is to be commended.

Does this mean I think you should write for Demand? Heck, I haven’t a clue. If you’re making as much money as you want, if your health care is covered or mostly covered, you certainly don’t have to give Demand a second thought. Otherwise, it might be worth investigation.

What I hope is that this is just the beginning. My fingers are crossed that the successful sites that use freelancers will begin to offer benefits like this.

Come to think of it, in the U.S. companies began offering benefits during WWII when wages were frozen – benefits were a way of attracting the best workers. Could that be starting on the web? I hope so.


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Yes, announcing a significant format change and new team members is just downright devious. I don’t issue many releases for my own sites. When I make relatively large changes or I release a new tool worth announcing, I do. After all, that’s what they’re for.

    Announcing news is just that — announcing news. Hardly comparable to initiating a media / blog blitz to suck people in for cheap labor before you’re willing to release full details on a supposed perk.

    No one here said marketing tactics were bad or that they should be avoided — simply not masked as something else.

    So here’s some added transparency just in case posting a press release in and of itself isn’t obvious enough on the promotional front: I am an evil promoter who will stop at nothing to bring traffic to my blog (which doesn’t directly correspond to more income given the business model there of primarily selling my own products or thoroughly reviewed affiliate products to longer-time / regular readers and turning down all traffic and post-based sponsorship offers).

    I will get that traffic by making changes tailored to my own target audience and announcing them publicly (when details are readily available) in the most monstrous way possible — a limited run press release on the Web with no direct media pursuit. Knock me down and stake me through the heart. The fate of the freelance world is in your hands.

    Had I said in that release “Oh my GOD, this is major, major news and you’re going to be soooo thrilled and it’s the greatest thing for freelance writers since free Wi-fi,” only to end it with a fizzle but saying “that’s still okay… at least it’s something, and you can still take advantage as long as you’re willing to sign over full rights to some of your work to me on the cheap,” I would wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. Context is a silly thing.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Jobs – November 24, 2009 =-.

    • Anne

      Jenn, you do a good and honest job. Sorry you’re getting sniped at here.

      • Don’t be sorry! My opinions are as strong as anyone’s, and I’m not going to hold back. I’d rather see someone thinking critically and making a complaint they feel is absolutely logical than have them keep quiet. No one learns, grows, or improves when constantly surrounded by “yes men” after all. I’m the last blogger to worry about making everyone happy and going the warm and fuzzy route, and I can appreciate differing viewpoints, no matter how vehemently someone else and I may disagree. And that’s really all Kevin’s comment amounted to. He felt I was being hypocritical. I disagreed when I put the comment in deeper context. I laughed it off (and hope he didn’t take the comment as anything more personal than that — if so, I apologize as I don’t promise to be tactful before 10am — actually, I never promise to be tactful). 😉

        Not a big deal. I’m going to keep doing what works for the audience I target, and not worry about what people in different audiences think of it just because it’s not tailored to them. And I expect other bloggers will do the same. As long as motives are consistently transparent and facts are thorough and accurate, really, who cares?
        .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Jobs – November 24, 2009 =-.

        • Anne

          Wouldn’t want you to be tactful! Appreciate your approach even when I disagree. Glad you’re here, and there.

  • Kevin R

    There’s nothing wrong with press releases, I use them all the time. I’m only pointing out the irony of Jennifer calling out DS as a marketing ploy.

    • Anne

      Kevin, I don’t think that’s her motivation… haven’t asked her of course, but I do know her and strongly suspect she called out DS in a press release because she believes they needed calling out – not as a marketing ploy. I know her well enough to trust her motivations.

      And if I’d been thinking I might have done a press release on the whole controversy here – except it’s been like a slow wave and I’ve got a couple of other things going on in my life.

      • Grrrr. I did it again. Didn’t nest the last comment in the appropriate place. Please forgive my blog clumsiness again. 🙂

        Just for the record, I didn’t do a press release calling out Demand. I put out a release announcing the change in freelance writing jobs on AFW, as well as the new writer team and collection of series launched on the site. So if you want to do one about this, it’s still wide open Anne. 😉
        .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Jobs – November 24, 2009 =-.

        • Anne

          makes sense… and I’m not going to do a release on the controversy… I’m going to figure out today’s post and what I need to cook for my part of the family Thanksgiving feast.

          Btw, I don’t think you can control the nesting.

  • Kevin R.

    ” But to make that decision they have to see through an awful lot of marketing hype as things are now, and that wasn’t a terribly “caring” move on Demand’s part.”

    Says the woman who just put out a press release to draw traffic to her blog.

    • Anne

      whoa, Kevin. We all use press releases to draw traffic… not a thing in the world wrong with it.

  • Oops! Meant for that to be nested as a reply to Clint. Sorry Anne!
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Demand Studios Health Insurance – Objective Overview of FlexShield Benefits =-.

    • Anne

      Did the same think Jenn, or the blog did… and yeah, keeping their writers independent contractors while giving any sort of health coverage is not easy…

      Of course, if your in Canada or the UK, health care isn’t an issue is it.

  • While from what I’ve seen so far Demand doesn’t seem to be threatening to take away insurance if they stop writing after the initial quota. But you hit the biggest nail on the head.

    A client is not the same thing as an employer. There’s a reason there are legal differences, and dictating terms for benefits eligibility is at the very least a slippery slope (not to mention all of the “employee” language inaccurately included in what’s supposed to be some kind of binding document of program terms).

    A freelancer is a business owner. It is their own responsibility to secure benefits. If they’re not being paid enough to afford them, the problem isn’t that clients should start acting more like employers. The problem is that they’re targeting the wrong client market and not earning what they need to earn — a fundamental sign that it’s time either for business changes or to leave freelancing for a regular job with benefits included.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Demand Studios Health Insurance – Objective Overview of FlexShield Benefits =-.

  • Charlotte

    It’s not health insurance, and it is useless. We would all be better off with higher per-article rates than this “health plan.” Of course, that’s exactly why they’ve offered this, isn’t it? To distract attention away from the fact that even a $5 per article raise would help the writers more than anything.

    • A $5 per article raise would be harder to drum up attention around, and would cost them something directly out of pocket whereas this doesn’t (as per their own site – quoted below).

      “Neither Demand Studios nor its parent company Demand Media nor any of its affiliates is sponsoring or contributing to the plan.”

      What I find incredibly disturbing is the way it’s so blatantly being used to hype up Demand and suck in writers first with minimal facts and now with misleading language. Textbook PR campaign, regardless of what they’re choosing to call it.

      For example on the hype front, there’s the claim of “no co-pays.” Of course that’s going to get people psyched. That’s because “no co-pays” has a very traditional definition of meaning there’s no out of pocket cost to the customer when they visit their doctor.

      That’s not what this version of “no co-pay” means though, and from several comments I’ve seen people aren’t reading the fine print to find that out until it’s pointed out (and companies know up front that most people do not read fine print). In fact, their documentation makes it very clear that they’re simply offering a specific discount on a specific number of visits, and that the difference will be billed to you by your doctor after the discount is applied (so by acting like there’s no co-pay on the writer’s part, they’re being more than a little bit misleading). – “You will receive a final bill from your doctor that already reflects the benefit payment.” No co-pay generally means the insurance company has negotiated a price with the doctor / hospital for their customers, and that what they negotiate to pay is treated as payment in full (even if less than what the doctor would charge a patient outright in their normal fee scale). Big difference.

      Like I’ve said elsewhere, there’s nothing wrong with people who feel this is a good option for them. But to make that decision they have to see through an awful lot of marketing hype as things are now, and that wasn’t a terribly “caring” move on Demand’s part.
      .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Getting Started in Writing for Trades With Christa Miller =-.

      • Anne

        Jenn, is it any worse than say the ads for various drugs on TV or the various contradictory statements re health insurance going in among our elected reps?

        Not saying it makes it right, but in the context of everything else it seems about equal. Changes are needed, system-wide changes imo.

        • Obvious paid advertisements vs something being passed off as honest and worthwhile news from “influencers” in an industry or niche? Very big difference, especially when it revolves around built-in trust.

          Politicians who spin and create hype to further their political agendas vs the same? Not quite as different. Both types of false or half-true information prey upon people who are in a bad spot right now economically, and that’s disgusting. Also, to the best of my knowledge no politician is using either side of the overall healthcare debate as a marketing tactic to attract cheap labor.
          .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Getting Started in Writing for Trades With Christa Miller =-.

          • Anne

            Sorry I brought politics into this… except, well let me put it this way. Other western industrialized countries don’t have a situation that would let an employer use health insurance to get cheap labor if that’s what’s happening.

  • Just my humble two cents here, but sometimes it’s best to do it right or not at all. At $91 for what amounts to a discount on health coverage, you’re almost better off just setting that money aside and paying your doctor in cash. For a fully comprehensive plan, you could go with–and this is me pulling an example from the top of my head–the Freelancers’ Union insurance plan which is only $150 a month. I could find a $60 monthly gig if I can’t swing that price differential.

    • The problem is, it’s easier said than done. There was a lot of time spent on researching plans and negotiating plans. Because of the different laws for the different states and because agencies don’t want to offer insurance to unsalaried freelancers there was some resistance. I’m not going to lie and say the plan is perfect or that we should leave our spouses health care plans for this, but if someone is looking for the basics, this might be a solution. Different people have different needs.

      I also feel that this will get more freelancers and more of the people who hire freelancers thinking about and discussing insurance and that’s never a bad thing. Look at all the discussion happening about it now? If anything, this was worth it just to open up a dialogue.

      Yesterday I heard from an uninsured freelancer who was very vocal in her disapproval of this plan. Then her son cut himself, it was a deep, bad cut. She realized if she had at least a basic plan she could have taken him to the hospital instead of treating him at home.

      I think the majority of freelancers are intelligent and can make good decisions regarding what will work best for them. I don’t think anyone will jump into a plan just because it was offered to them without researching the best coverage for them first.
      .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Inconvenience of Inspiration =-.

      • I disagree. Like I mentioned, there’s already a health insurance plan out there that’s far more comprehensive than what Demand Studios is offering. At their price point, I found an indemnity plan through Blue Cross that covers roughly as much as they do. I’m a young guy without any health problems myself, so I don’t have as much need for health insurance aside from serious injury, so that plan would be ideal for me, theoretically.

        I suppose that’s a positive thing that you could say about it, but I worry about how it might create a dependency problem. After all, these are our clients, not our employers. I don’t work in an office for a reason, and that’s because I don’t want someone with the ability to dictate terms for me. With a content provider like Demand Studios, they’re sort of creating a system where they do indeed have something to hold over their writers’ heads. What if you want to quit Demand Studios? This system, while well-meaning, is going to make things messy.

        Personally, I’m going with my own private health insurance provider. My healthcare is not my clients’ concern, nor is theirs mine. All I should be doing for them is writing.

        • Clint, the dependency point is a good and valid point, and it can be argued that Demand is now heading into “employer” territory over “client” territory.

          However, many people who work full time jobs only do so for the healthcare. They’re at jobs they dislike because they need the insurance, so that dependency will be there for many regardless of the job they take. The Demand Studios writers often discuss healthcare and the team realized it was an issue for them. They set out to ease the burden for them a little. Does that make the writers dependent on them? Perhaps. But the writers who don’t write much for Demand or really don’t want to depend on them aren’t qualified anyway.

          Also, many of the freelancers who work for DS are doing so not necessarily because they want to freelance, but because they lost their jobs. So maybe the independent freelancer thing doesn’t matter to them – or maybe they’ve wanted to freelance but never have because they needed bennies, and knowing one of their clients has a plan (or that freelancers’ unions offer plans) they’ll be more likely to take the plunge. There are a variety of situations out there and this sort of plan might suit one of those instances.
          I’m happy for my husband’s COBRA right now, but if he doesn’t find a job before it runs out, I’m going to have to explore our options. So these discussions are so valuable for me.

          Again, I appreciate the discussion. Not necessarily to give Demands Studios a big kumbaya, but because these are the things clients who hire lots of writers will have to think about if they decide to look into healthcare for their own writers.

          Thanks, Clint. I appreciate the respectful and productive discussion.
          .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Inconvenience of Inspiration =-.

    • Anne

      Clint, That actually may be a good suggestion. National Writer’s Union also has a plan, although I don’t know how it compares. Isn’t it nice to have a choice?

  • Anytime a client looks to help freelancers with healthcare it’s a good thing. The plan isn’t perfect, for sure, but I ‘m happy to see a client trying to be part of the solution.

    Thanks, Anne!
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Inconvenience of Inspiration =-.

    • Wendy

      I respect where you’re coming from here. It is nice to see someone trying to be a part of the solution. The problem is, the timing of the this whole deal. Looking at it, from an outside point of view, the only solution they appear to be going for is to save their own reputation.

      They have taken quite a hit as far as negative comments in the last several months. Since they have a goal of getting a large number of content pieces out a month; they need to have as many people writing for them as possible to meet it. What better way to entice new people then by offering a healthcare discount option? They may have had the best intentions, but their timing only makes it more suspicious. Had they addressed the real issue, which is the pay rate, first, then the healthcare option might have been seen as more of a benefit to those of us who don’t work for them.

      • Anne

        Why would you assume it’s only for publicity? I know it takes months and months to get any sort of group health plan together – suspect it’s even tougher for a company who wants to give some coverage to independent contractors.

        From their point of view the real issue is content and profit… their profit. I’m assuming, which is always a problem, that they are paying attention to the bottom line which let’s them pay anyone anything.

        You don’t have to write for DS or any of the others and if you do write for DS you don’t need to take their health plan…

        • I think with a content site it’s sort of a darned if you do/darned if you don’t situation. If they do good things, people will question the motivation and authenticity. If they don’t do anything good, they’ll be accused of not being for the writers.
          .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..10 Sure to Be Appreciated Holiday Gifts for Writers =-.

  • Just a quick correction: The post on All Freelance Writing about it is actually what insurance professional / freelance writer, Yolander Prinzel, had to say about it rather than me. 😉
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..Demand Studios Health Insurance – Objective Overview of FlexShield Benefits =-.

    • Anne

      Thanks for the correction Jenn… I’m going too fast it seems.

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