An important service of the FPA was its group health insurance plan. It was introduced in the 1950s in response to the rapidly rising costs of medical care in the US, compared with the situation many foreign journalists were used to in their homelands. Also, new arrivals from abroad often found they could not qualify for health insurance.

Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield offered a group insurance plan to the FPA which proved to be most successful. It was so attractive a feature that at times a majority of the members used the plan to insure themselves and their families, although by the 1980s less than a third of the members took advantage of the plan.

To many the soul of the operation was Isabelle Silk, Executive Secretary, and later Executive Director of the FPA, from 1973 until her retirement in 1992. She was renowned for her persistent and persuasive ways when dealing with the seemingly unsurmountable inflexibility of a large insurance bureaucracy. She also showed never-ending patience with, and understanding of, those members who needed that little bit of extra time to pay their dues.

A long and happy marriage with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield came to an end in 1991. Even before the final divorce, it was evident that Empire's group insurance was becoming as expensive as individual coverage. However, the FPA continues to help members choose and evaluate individual health insurance plans.

Karl Grun

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