You probably have a lot to consider before you decide to call yourself a freelancer or small business owner. Aside from getting your first clients and making sure you have all the necessary tax information, you should also be prepared to cover your health insurance plan. Without a group insurance plan or 401(k) from your employer, it may be hard to know where to look to ensure you’re covered and making the right decision for your life.
Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll explore the different options available as a freelancer to help you make a better-informed decision about your health insurance coverage.
The number of people turning to freelancing and becoming self-employed is increasing. In 2020, freelancers accounted for 36% of the workforce in the United States. Freelancing brings freedom, but it also means paying for your own insurance.
Thankfully, you have a few options. You may even find local, national, and industry-based organizations that provide group health insurance plans for freelancers.
If you are under age 26 and your parent’s health plan covers dependents, you can stay on their plan until you turn 26. This is because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance providers to extend coverage.
If you’re married and your spouse has health insurance coverage through work, you can also be added to their plan. Have your spouse contact the insurance provider and ask about the process; most policies can be converted from an individual to a family plan quickly and easily. However, you might see an increase in monthly premiums and deductibles. If you are not married but are in a committed relationship and share a home with your partner, you may still qualify to be added to their insurance policy as a domestic partner.
You can also get insurance coverage for yourself and your family through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes called “Obamacare.” The ACA created the Health Insurance Marketplace where anyone can sign up for a health plan, regardless of their employment status. This may be the best health insurance option for you because it allows self-employed individuals to choose from different plans.
Through ACA, you can sign up for a plan during the open enrollment period. Federal open enrollment lasts from November 1 to December. 15, but some states open their enrollment periods sooner, or extend their deadline.
You may sign up through special enrollment if you go through a qualifying life event, such as marriage, divorce, or job loss, which impacts your insurance status. However, you must enroll within 60 days of the life event or you’ll risk needing to wait for the next open enrollment period.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a government program that allows employees to keep their group health insurance plan when they leave their job for whatever reason. Through COBRA, your employer’s insurance provider will convert the group plan to an individual plan for you. This makes it possible to keep your existing coverage for 18 or 36 months.
However, group insurance plans cost less because the premiums are pooled. With an individual plan and without a subsidy from your employer, you’ll have to pay full price for the plan plus a 2% administrative fee. If you want to explore this alternative, contact your employer’s insurer and get information on COBRA coverage and the monthly premium.
You may also want to consider joining the Freelancers Union. It’s an organization where freelancers can receive benefits commonly available only through labor unions, such as advocacy on public policy, resources, and health insurance plans. Membership is free and open to freelancers of all kinds. Aside from health plans, the union also offers coverage on dental, vision, disability, liability, and term life insurance.
Similarly, if you are a member of a professional organization or trade group, connect with your community and explore what they have to offer for insurance benefits and discounts. Your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a good resource due to offering group health insurance for freelancers and self-employed individuals in some areas.
If your freelance business is not profitable yet, you may qualify to apply for health insurance through Medicaid. Since the program is state-run, the eligibility requirements vary from state to state and may depend on your income, household size, family status, disability, age, and other factors.
For income eligibility, the threshold is 138% of the federal poverty level ($12,760 in 2020 for individuals). This means if you earned less than $17,608 the previous year, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage based on income.
The cost of health insurance plans for freelancers will vary depending on the plan you choose, your age, location, pre-existing conditions, and whether you’ll be enrolling as an individual or with your family members.
Here are some terms you also need to be familiar with to better understand your health insurance plan coverage:
Look for health care coverage that suits your freelance work and lifestyle. The options presented in this article are intended to start you in the right direction of finding an affordable health insurance plan that meets your needs. There are numerous plans on the market, so we also recommend seeking advice from insurance agents.
At ZenBusiness, we understand you’re being pulled in every direction as a new business owner. Let our dedicated team take care of the details of starting a business so you can focus on succeeding.
There are several health insurance plans for freelancers, including:
Check this list by Investopedia for the best health insurance companies for self-employed individuals. They’ve compared 15 of the top providers, reviewing each company’s history, reputation, convenience, nationwide availability, and claims process.
As a freelancer, you’re essentially a small business owner. You have more flexibility and control over your work hours, who to work with, and how much you can earn. The downside is having to shoulder health care costs, live without paid time off, and plan for retirement on your own.
According to the Health Insurance Index Report for 2019, here are the average monthly premiums for individual plans and families:
These figures represent households and individuals who didn’t qualify for any subsidies. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that after applying subsidies, the average monthly individual premium amounted to $87.