For freelancers and gig workers, finding the right health insurance plan can be a tricky proposition. While traditional workers often receive insurance through their workplaces, freelancers have to fend for themselves. Simply going without insurance isn’t an option – you never know when a medical emergency could strike.
But how can you navigate the complexities of the insurance market? Read this guide to find out.
What are your health insurance options?
The first step when choosing health insurance is to fully understand the available options. One common route is to find insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called Obamacare. This federal program is designed to make insurance available to more people.
If your income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level, you can enroll in Obamacare between November 1st and December 15th or after a “qualifying event” in your life. One advantage of these plans is that they’re required to cover preexisting conditions. The main downside is that you might have to pay a higher monthly premium than you would with a private plan.
Another option is to buy short-term health insurance on the private market. These plans often don’t provide as much coverage as an Obamacare plan, but their flexibility and availability make them intriguing options for gig workers. You can purchase a plan for a short period and choose the benefits you think you need.
Health Savings Account (HSA): How can this help you?
A health savings account is another way to save up for medical expenses. These accounts are available to U.S. taxpayers who have high-deductible health insurance plans. If you apply, you can put money directly into the account without having to pay income tax. You can then use these untaxed funds to pay for healthcare-related expenses.
Healthshare Plan as an alternative
A healthshare plan is an alternative to traditional health insurance that is often less expensive. You contribute to the plan with a small monthly payment, and then you apply to have your bills reimbursed when a medical emergency comes up. It’s important to keep in mind that these plans are largely unregulated and don’t cover many types of medical expenses. All the same, they can provide some peace of mind for gig workers without insurance.
Your spouse’s employer plan as an option
If you’re married and working as a freelancer, you should see whether you can get health insurance through your spouse’s employer. Many jobs include benefits packages that can be extended to immediate family members. If your spouse is happy with their coverage and you’re allowed to get on the plan, you might as well take advantage.
What to look for when comparing health insurance options
Health insurance plans are complicated, and it can be difficult to assess which options truly meet your needs. Here are some specific benefits to consider when making comparisons:
Doctor Visits: How many visits are covered in a year, and how much of a copay will you have to pay on each visit?
Prescription Drug Coverage: How much will you have to pay for the medications you need?
Telemedicine: Modern technology gives you easy access to non-emergency care. Does your plan allow you to access this care for free?
Plan Network: How many healthcare providers does your plan allow you to access? Are their locations convenient for you?
Hospital Stay Benefits: How much time in a hospital will the insurance company cover?
Limitations and Exclusions: Are certain services that you might require specifically left out of the plan? How much of a problem would this be for you?
Only after asking yourself these questions and finding the answers should you commit to a particular plan.
Access group insurance through professional associations
Another option for gig workers is to try to get insurance through a trade group or professional association. If you already belong to one of these groups, investigate whether they help their members get insurance. If you don’t belong to an association, you can see if there are any available to workers in your field.
Join a temporary agency
Temporary agencies, also called staffing agencies, help freelancers find work in their chosen fields. Many of these agencies also provide workers with options for purchasing insurance. Working for a temp agency can be a great way to find consistent work and obtain health insurance while you’re at it.
Buy directly from a private insurer
If you earn too much to qualify for an Obamacare plan or simply prefer to buy your own insurance, you can always purchase a plan directly from a private insurer. In some states, you’ll have to find a plan that’s ACA-compliant to avoid paying a penalty. In others, you can choose whichever plan suits your needs.
About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.