The Black Car Fund, the nation’s first fully self-funded, self-insured and self-administered non-profit workers’ compensation provider – formed by New York State statute nearly 20 years ago – will now be the first in the nation to provide professional drivers with vision and telemedicine benefits. Developed in coordination with the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), the new benefits plan will cover more than 42,000 for-hire vehicle drivers and will be funded by the longstanding 2.5% Black Car Fund rider surcharge.

Working with the IDG, the Black Car Fund began offering these new benefits July 1, 2018. Uber will be assisting with outreach efforts. The benefits will cover for-hire drivers in New York State who qualify by driving a minimum number of hours per month, including workers driving for all app-based car service companies.

“When the Black Car Fund first started its benefits programs, it was ahead of its time; now it’s 2018 and it’s time to implement concrete solutions as the national gig-economy grows,” said Ira Goldstein, Executive Director of the Black Car Fund. “Providing telemedicine and vision benefits will make drivers healthier, safer and happier – and in turn, be a model for the rest of the country. This is the direction the industry must go for the betterment of for-hire drivers.”

“This is a proud moment for our Guild and a huge step toward a more fair industry,” said Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of the IDG. “New York’s for-hire vehicle drivers are being crushed under the weight of sub-minimum wage pay and have no access to the social safety net and benefits most workers take for granted. While we continue our fight for livable pay, we are pleased that drivers who need glasses will finally be able to get them along with 24/7 access to a doctor, all at no cost.”

“These new benefits are a much-needed breakthrough for drivers for apps like Uber and Lyft and we hope to both expand on these benefits in New York and help workers across the U.S. to win similar gains,” said Andrew Greenblatt of IDG Benefits Fund, the Guild’s sister organization that provides benefits and health screenings to drivers.

“It’s fair to say that the workers’ compensation industry has been watching the approach of the NY Black Car Fund for some time,” said Heather Lore, senior manager of membership and communications at the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions. “Its innovative approach to addressing a gap in workers’ compensation coverage has far-reaching possibilities as we see economic shifts change the way we work. The NY Black Car Fund will be speaking at the IAIABC’s upcoming 104th Convention, and we look forward to hearing how they continue to adapt their model to meet the needs of workers.”

“With the rapid growth of for-hire car service companies and their independent workforce, the Black Car Fund feels a responsibility to ensure a new population of drivers are healthy and safe,” said Berj Haroutunian, Executive Chairman of the Black Car Fund. “We are proud that we can offer these new benefits at no new cost to the public, to help drivers and make the streets safer for everyone.”

“Money is tight – I can’t afford the time off or expense of doctor’s visits, but for my child, doctor’s visits are not optional. So, I find myself making trade-offs on which bill I will have to skip paying that month,” said IDG member, Tina Raveneau, a single mom who works as an FHV driver. “Getting those school year sick visits done for free over video chat is going to save me a bundle, get my child seen more quickly, and alleviate a huge stress of parenting in this industry.”

New Benefits

Driver Telemedicine Benefit: All drivers will be able to consult with a doctor via video or voice, from within an exclusive app or by phone, regarding a full range of basic medical issues.

  • Can be used for workers’ compensation or non-workers’ compensation uses.
  • Doctors can write prescriptions over the video or voice consultation immediately, except for controlled substances.
  • Allows for more appropriate and cost-effective follow-up medical care, with drivers not needing to take time off, ensuring maximum medical improvement is reached most efficiently as possible.
  • Drivers may use this service for help with spouses and children.
  • Translators are available for over 150 languages.

 

Driver Optical Plan: All drivers will benefit from one free optical exam per year, as well as (if needed) one pair of prescription glasses or a three-month supply of contact lenses, free of charge.

  • Drivers will have access to a network of hundreds of participating vendor service locations throughout New York.
  • Vision Provider has an outreach team which will strategically be placed in highly-trafficked areas within multiple communities, such as near public parks and the airport service plazas, to book eye exams on the spot for drivers.

About the Black Car Fund: The New York Black Car Operators’ Injury Compensation Fund, otherwise known as The Black Car Fund (BCF), was created for the purpose of providing workers’ compensation coverage to Black Car Operators in the State of New York. The BCF was formed by state statute in 1999, and began issuing coverage in 2000. The BCF has approximately 365 Member Bases throughout the State of New York and provides coverage to approximately 125,000 Drivers. The Black Car Fund is funded entirely by passengers in the form of a 2.5% surcharge per ride.

 

The Independent Drivers Guild is a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 65,000 app-based drivers in New York City.

 

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Article by Ryan Price

Ryan Price is Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists, which represents and advocates for more than 60,000 app-based drivers in New York City. We’re Uber, Lyft, Juno, Via workers united for a fair industry.

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