Health Insurance for Freelancers: Affordable Coverage Options for the Self-Employed
One of the main downfalls of freelance work is that self-employed workers don’t get the benefit of employer-sponsored health insurance. As a result, freelancers need to find affordable health care plans that provide them with the coverage they need at prices they can afford. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides some health care options to self-employed workers, it doesn’t always offer the perfect solution for freelancers. Freelance workers should explore their healthcare coverage options to ensure they find an affordable plan that meets all their medical needs.
These topics will help you better understand the affordable health insurance options for freelancers:
How to Get Health Insurance as a Freelancer
Freelancers have a variety of options for health coverage. Get to know the details of each option so you can select a health insurance plan that meets your medical needs and fits your budget. Here are six health insurance options for freelancers and small businesses:
State Health Insurance Marketplace
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you have the option to enroll in a healthcare plan through a local health insurance marketplace run by your state. In the marketplace, you can browse through different healthcare plans offered by various providers and compare them to one another. There are four levels of marketplace plans:
The levels are based on the ratio of the deductible to premium costs. So, for example, the Platinum plans have a higher monthly cost, but the lowest deductible. The Bronze plans, on the other hand, have lower monthly rates but the highest deductible.
Depending on your self-employment income, you may be able to get a tax credit to help cover the cost of health insurance. This health insurance marketplace calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation can help you calculate how much you can receive in tax credits.
A Professional Group
Many professional organizations offer group health insurance plans for their members, including the Writers Guild of America and the National Association of Female Executives. There are even some co-working spaces that offer group health insurance coverage. The members of plans sponsored by professional associations share the cost of the healthcare plan in the same way employees do, offering more affordable rates.
Your Spouse’s Health Insurance Plan
If you happen to be married to someone who has access to an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you can opt to be included in your spouse’s plan. Typically, the process to enroll in a spouse’s insurance plan is straightforward and you can sign up at any time, whereas with the state-sponsored marketplace, you have to wait for an open enrollment period. Your spouse’s monthly contribution will likely increase when you’re added to the plan, but it’s often considerably cheaper than the cost of an individual plan through private insurance.
If you lose a full-time job and decide to go freelance, you may be able to keep your previous healthcare coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. It gives former employees the right to keep their group health insurance coverage when they lose their job, meaning your coverage remains the same, as does the amount you pay in premiums and deductibles. Healthcare.gov offers more details on applying for COBRA coverage.
Health Insurance Broker
If you do want to purchase individual insurance from an independent insurer, it could save you money to go through a licensed insurance broker to buy your insurance policy. A professional broker will be able to advise you on the best health plans to suit your needs and will be able to shop around to different providers to find the best price for the coverage you need. You can meet with an insurance broker in person to discuss your needs, or consult with your broker online.
Small Business Health Care Plans
If, as a freelancer, you also employ workers as a small-business owner, you can apply for affordable health insurance for you, your family and your employees through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). Companies need to have between one and fifty employees to qualify for SHOP. You can apply online for SHOP to offer health and dental benefits to yourself, your employees and their dependents.
This article goes into greater depth on offering health insurance as a small business owner.
How Much Does it Cost for Self-Employed Health Insurance?
The cost of self-employed health insurance varies depending on the plan you have, whether it’s a private personal policy or a government-sponsored health insurance plan. According to a study conducted by eHealth, the average cost of insurance premiums for people buying an individual health plan was $397 per month in 2017. However, you may qualify for subsidies that can reduce your monthly costs.
How Can I Get Free Health Insurance?
Medicaid is a federal and state funded health insurance program designed for low-income individuals and families. It provides free health insurance, or low-cost insurance, to low-income adults, children, seniors and people with disabilities who meet the eligibility requirements.
Contact your local state Medicaid office to see if you qualify for free medical benefits under Medicaid. To determine if you meet the eligibility requirements, your local office will look at:
- Your age
- Your income level
- The number of people in your family
- Whether you’re pregnant
- Whether you’re disabled
Can I Buy Private Health Insurance at Any Time?
You can buy private health insurance through an insurance agent or broker at any time.
You can also apply for low-cost health insurance through Medicaid at any time. For government-sponsored healthcare under the ACA, you have to apply for health insurance during an open enrollment period. Open enrollment for 2019 runs from November 1 to December 15, 2018.