Bringing Healthcare to the Gig Economy

by

Ben Lambert

Director of Legal Operations and Business Development at Thor

San Francisco, July 26, 2018 —While the majority of our updates have been focused on our Thor Lightning Pay™ platform, we have been diligently working behind the scenes to provide our users with a comprehensive healthcare solution.

To provide some context, the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) required individuals who could otherwise afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, to pay a fee called the individual shared responsibility payment. (The fee is sometimes called the “penalty,” “fine,” or “individual mandate.”)

An individual would owe the fee for any month they, their spouse, or tax dependents didn’t have qualifying health coverage. The individual mandate requirement was seen as an effective way to ban health insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions while keeping insurance markets stable and functional. While many Americans would view this as a noble way to police price manipulation and discrimination among health insurance companies, the reality soon become clear: the options for the self-employed (independent contractors) to find suitable health care options became limited while their individual premiums grew exponentially year-over-year. In essence, it was a penalty.

Someone with an annual income at 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $48,000 (the cut-off for subsidies), would have to pay over $6,000 annuallyor 13 percent of gross income for coverage. A study by the New York Times, supported by figures from the US Senate policy Papers, indicated many would have to pay even more.

Source: https://resources.ehealthinsurance.com/affordable-care-act/history-timeline-affordable-care-act-aca

Despite failures to completely repeal-and-replace the ACA, the Trump administration has chipped away at certain key features of the act. First, starting in 2019, the individual mandate is gone. Second, the Trump administration has expanded “association health plans” (AHPs) that would cover people with pre-existing health conditions and could be marketed across state lines to businesses in a common industry — auto repair shops, for example — or they could be sold to self-employed people like contract drivers and other similarly situated independent contractors.

What this means for Thor

We’ve been focusing on providing a health care solution that (i) provides continuing (e.g. doesn’t end after each gig) and comprehensive (medical/vision/dental) health insurance for on-demand workers and their dependents; and (ii) is affordable and flexible to fit a variety of economic backgrounds. Currently, the options for independent contractors are limited — they either had to sign up for the ACA, hope for sufficient coverage in their area, and pray premiums didn’t go up; or, go to the market on their own (expensive and limited). Neither option provided an attractive option for independent contractors with basic health insurance needs.

We want to provide users of our platform access to health insurance either through a proprietary Thor branded plan utilizing the new AHP regulations or an affordable marketplace option through a preferred vendor that specializes in single or multi-dependent plans for independent contractors. We understand that in this fractious political environment, it’s clear that comprehensive health care reform to truly lower health care costs across the board won’t come any time soon. But targeted rule changes in the executive branch, such as the forthcoming AHP expansion, will offer real relief to up to 11 million small business owners and employees who have suffered most under the ACA.

No matter what side of the political aisle you sit on, I think we can all agree that Americans are entitled to affordable health care no matter how they are classified in the US labor force. As one of our recent Telegram community members put it:

“I love how Thor speaks a story to both sides of the US political spectrum. To the GOP, “move the government out of healthcare…end Obama Care,” and to the Dems, “bring affordable healthcare and insurance options to millions of Americans.”
— @SirCryptoWolf

We couldn’t agree more.

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