Many workers approach their professional life with the assumption that issues such as health insurance are something covered by their employers. Part of the appeal of getting a full-time job was the promise of a healthy pension and protection in the form of a comprehensive policy. Today however, the entrepreneurial environment that we live in has changed many people’s approach to health insurance.
In a few years, experts estimate that half of the American workforce will be self-employed — and though freelancers experience a wide range of benefits in their work lives, health insurance is not one of them. One of the biggest drawbacks of considering a freelance career is that though you may be following your passions, you will also be leaving behind the health benefits and support employers and corporations can offer.
Finding affordable health insurance as an independent worker is quite a challenge — complicated enough that it has even caused the rate of uninsured individuals to rise. However, as difficult as the process might be, it’s essential for everyone to get health insurance, as the penalty for not having it in 2015 is high – 2% of your annual household income. With that in mind, you may be wondering what are the best options for freelancers?
Use Your State’s Health Insurance Marketplace
Typically, most experts recommend that the government Health Insurance Marketplace is the ideal place to begin looking for coverage. This is the location where you’ll be most likely to find a wide range of insurance opportunities available for people with different budget allowances. Unfortunately, the issue with this approach is that you will need to qualify in order to be eligible.
While self-employed individuals and freelancers can apply for coverage, your “savings” will be based on your estimated income. If the marketplace believes that you are earning too much money every year with your freelance business, then you may not be able to get the affordable coverage you could access from other sources.
One benefit of using the health insurance marketplace is that as you fill out the application form, you will be alerted of any tax credits you qualify for based on your income and family size. What’s more, you’ll be able to determine whether you can get access to inexpensive coverage through programs such as Medicaid.
Consider Individual Coverage
If you’re a self-employed freelancer, you may choose to search through insurance websites for individual, or private health insurance plans. Even if you’re offered a plan elsewhere, you would probably benefit from pricing it against the options that you can access on your own. Try comparing and contrasting different options and make sure to look for the solution that offers you the most comprehensive coverage – not just the most inexpensive option. A lot of insurance companies even provide rate calculators in their website to make your search even easier.
If Individual insurance rates seem excessively high – particularly if you suffer with some health problems, then you could consider taking out a higher deductible. Many plans offer preventative care cover for low or no deductibles, meaning that you’ll only have to pay a large deductible if you need surgery, specialist care, or emergency assistance.
Trade Organizations, Groups, and Freelancer’s Unions
One of the biggest insurance issues that freelancers face is that they will not qualify for the group discounts that a large business has access to. One way to get that benefit is to join up with other individuals in your industry and sign up together for medical coverage. The chances are that you’ll already belong to a trade organization in your industry, so why not check to see whether you can access health insurance as a benefit of that membership.
Recently, the Freelancers Union has begun to offer a national benefits platform, which delivers a curated collection of health insurance solutions for freelancers throughout the country. Although previously the Freelancers Union could only offer plans to a handful of states, they now provide options on a national basis.
Freelancers can get health insurance, but it’s not always going to be an easy, or inexpensive task – depending on your situation and family size. You may want to get in touch with an insurance broker. You may have to do a lot of searching, and combine alternative methods in order to keep your health costs down, which is why it’s usually a good idea to start planning well before enrollment opens on November 15th.
Keep in mind that there may also be alternative solutions available. For example, if you are married, then your spouse’s career may provide family-wide health insurance coverage. What’s more, if you exit a job to pursue freelance work, COBRA might also be an option.