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The guide to health insurance for freelancers (8 options)
More and more people are ditching their 9-5 jobs in favor of freelancing. Today, the Freelancers Union reports that freelancers make up 35% of the total U.S. workforce. With numbers like that, it’s easy to think that freelancers have it made, and that signing high-end contract templates is a breeze.
They get to set their own hours, work for themselves, and focus on their passions. However, there is one final challenge that holds many back from finding their own employment path: health insurance.
Health insurance for freelancers is tricky. When you’re employed through a traditional full-time job, insurance is offered through them and this covers a portion of the cost. When you’re not under any traditional benefits package, you have to figure these things out for yourself, just as you do with your freelance invoices, for example.
Luckily, it’s not impossible to find excellent health insurance options. Let’s look into the many options you, as a freelancer, have today for protecting your health.
1. Join a family member
One of the most common ways freelancers stay covered is to jump on a family member’s plan. If your spouse has a healthcare policy, you can usually add yourself to their coverage either at no cost or with an additional premium.
Another option available for younger freelancers is being added as a dependent on their parent’s insurance plan. Under new healthcare laws, most insurance companies need to offer coverage for children under 26.
Talk to your family members today about possible coverage options. However, don’t be afraid to keep shopping around. Sometimes the cost of adding you to an existing plan is more expensive than purchasing your own insurance plan. In that case, keep reading.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a rule passed by Congress in 1986 that might apply to your situation as a freelancer. This act includes a rule that when you leave a company where you had a healthcare policy, this coverage must be extended up to 18 months after you leave.
If you’re planning to make the switch from full-time to freelance work, you might consider COBRA coverage as a way to transition. It buys you more time to find a plan outside of your employer. This coverage is a great option because, generally, employer plans offer more coverage than individual plans, so you can receive excellent care.
3. Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The ACA isn’t just for the unemployed and with existing conditions. Under the ACA, insurance is possible for those who are self-employed as freelancers as well. While the options likely won’t be as flexible or as extensive as a traditional plan through an employer, this will cover your healthcare basics and any emergencies.
You can view the plan options in your area through HealthMarkets today. Just like how you browse this list of Bonsai recommended project management tools for freelancers, you need to browse your options for health insurance via the marketplace. Just make sure you visit the marketplace early to avoid the last-minute rush of enrollment season.
4. Union health insurance for freelancers
Aside from the ACA, there are now options available specifically for freelancers. Some insurance plans on a national scale are designed with freelancers in mind.
While these were only available in a few states before, they’re now an option across the country. Keep in mind that options are still limited, but it’s still a great resource for seeing what’s available in your area. Finally, the Freelancer’s Union offers an insurance option built around freelancers and their needs.
5. Local chamber or business group
Many cities offer health insurance for freelancers. These are group plans through business organizations or local chambers, and they can be substantial depending on your location. If you’re a member of a local professional organization, it’s worth asking if they offer any type of health insurance coverage.
Even if your local professional group doesn’t currently offer coverage, you might be able to find a group of members willing to start the process of getting group coverage together. Through this method, you’ll work independently or through a broker to choose a plan that’s right for your group.
6. Health savings account
Another choice is to choose a health savings account or HSA. This is a tax-protected account that’s specifically designed to be used for healthcare costs. When you use an HSA, you save each year on taxes while also preparing for any out-of-pocket health costs.
Most people pair an HSA with a high-deductible insurance plan. These high-deductible plans are commonly called “emergency” plans since they don’t cover much regular treatment, but they do help if you face a medical emergency. With an HSA and a high-deductible plan, you can save for your health without risking your financial future.
7. Pay cash
Finally, if you decide insurance isn’t right for you as a freelancer, you still have options to receive less expensive care. This is a good option if you already have an established health savings account, or if you have considerable assets.
Paying cash in full at the time of service usually opens you up to a large discount on care. Never be afraid to ask your provider if there’s a discount available if you pay upfront. Like you look for the best freelance tips to run your business, you need to keep in mind the best money-saving tips when visiting a healthcare professional.
Another option for paying cash is to look for a flat-fee doctor in your area. Many doctors and specialists provide a monthly rate you pay each month in exchange for unlimited visits. While this won’t help if you need emergency hospital care or if you need prescription drugs, but it can help with doctor costs.
8. Small business insurance
Depending on your state, you might be able to get insurance as a business rather than an individual. Of course, this means you need your business to be registered with your state government. You’ll also likely need at least two people working under the same business in order to qualify for health insurance plans.
Forbes recommends self-employed individuals and small businesses establish insurance via a professional employer organization (PEO). This does involve extra steps, but it might be worth the added coverage options. A PEO might also open your business to some new tax credits, and that’s always a benefit.
As we’ve shown, it’s likely more inexpensive to choose coverage as an employer yourself than to search for an individual, private insurance plan. Your state might offer great health insurance options that are more affordable. However, it’s always a good idea to shop around before committing to a plan since rates change every year.
Affordable health insurance for freelancers
It’s true that healthcare is complicated for freelancers, but that’s no excuse to skip coverage altogether. If you do the right research, you can find a healthcare option that works for your income and situation. Don’t wait until you have an emergency to choose coverage. You should also consider disability insurance, which protects your income in case health issues prevent you from working. Also, learn more about your tax and accounting software options to keep track of your expenses. Today, every penny counts, especially when insurance is so expensive.
Use this guide and start your search today. While it’s not as simple as employer-based coverage, you do have options for health insurance as a freelancer. Your health is the most important thing you have. Protect it with the proper insurance plan to make sure you can focus on the parts of your business that are important to you.
Once you’ve mastered your health insurance options, it’s time to make life as a freelancer even simpler with Bonsai. With Bonsai, you can get paid faster and manage your freelance business with ease - sign up for a free Bonsai trial today.