How to Buy Medical Insurance as a Freelancer

Photo of a healthcare professional explaining insurance coverage.

Medical insurance isn’t an optional business expense, but as a freelance writer, trying to figure out how to find it, buy it, and pay for it can feel overwhelming. The good news is that this is a challenge that all freelancers have to face, and there are many different resources that can help you make the right choice for yourself. The key is to treat the cost of your health insurance as a non-negotiable overhead cost from the start. Often, freelance writers put off buying health insurance or skimp on the kind of coverage that they choose in order to cut back on expenses, especially in the early stages of launching a freelance writing career. This approach is understandable, but it leaves you vulnerable to crippling costs that could bankrupt your business and be devastating to you personally. Don’t roll the dice on something as important as your health. Instead, use this advice for finding medical insurance that will work for you as a freelancer.

Start by Considering the Easiest Options

If you have recently made the leap to becoming a freelance writer and have left behind a job with benefits, before you go policy shopping, consider some of the easiest options in front of you. First, if you have a spouse with health insurance, simply being added to his or her plan could be the solution you need. If this is an option for you, explore the sign-up costs, coverage, and premiums. In some cases, joining your spouse’s health plan is the most affordable option. In other cases, you will find that you can find cheaper—and better—coverage by striking out on your own, but this should always be the place to start.

If you have left a job with benefits, then you are likely to be eligible for COBRA benefits. COBRA plans let you keep the medical insurance from your former employer by taking over the premium payments, usually for up to 18 months. COBRA is not usually a cheap option, but it may provide high-quality coverage and give you some wiggle room to figure out what steps to take next.

Explore Affordable Care Act Plans

With insurance plans available under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, you may be eligible for a subsidy that helps you offset some of the cost of medical care. Subsidies are based on your income, so the exact coverage that is available to you depends on how much you are making as a freelancer.

The Healthcare Marketplace is open to anyone, even if you don’t qualify for subsidies. In the Marketplace, you can compare plans to measure up your options for coverage, deductibles, and premiums. Fortunately, insurance companies can no longer turn you down or charge you more if you have a pre-existing medical condition, so the Marketplace is truly open to anyone who wishes to purchase private insurance in ways that it wasn’t previously. The open enrollment period for 2019 is currently active, and will continue through December 15, 2018. Outside of open enrollment, you may qualify for a special enrollment period.

Check with Professional Associations

Some professional associations offer insurance plans that their members can elect to join. This allows you to tap into the power of group policies, which in turn can give you a lower premium and better benefits. The Freelancers Union is a great place to start for these kinds of plans, but be sure to check with your local Chamber of Commerce and other business associations in your community, which may also have plans available.

There may also be professional associations with insurance plans that are open to you based on your writing niche. For example, some writers can qualify for plans available for entertainment industry works through the Actors Fund or plans through the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

It can take some time to do all of the research necessary to find these kinds of policies, but it can be well worth the work if you find an affordable plan that offers better coverage that you could get elsewhere.

Weigh Your Plan Options Carefully

When shopping for medical coverage, it can be helpful to know exactly what your priorities are. Is it more important for you to have a low monthly payment, or would you benefit more from having a low-deductible policy?

Many people focus exclusively on the premium costs when shopping for health insurance, but the lowest monthly payment will not always work out in your favor. High-deductible plans, for instance, have low monthly payments, but the deductibles can be as high as $20,000. That means that if you face a serious injury or illness and are hospitalized, you would be on the hook for $20,000 of expenses before your insurance covered anything. When you do meet the deductible, your coverage could still be minimal, which could cause you to face overwhelming expenses and possibly a significant amount of debt. If you do purchase a high-deductible plan, be sure to investigate your eligibility for a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). These accounts offer tax benefits while letting you set aside money for healthcare costs.

If you have a chronic medical condition, you may find that it is more cost-effective in the long run to pay more every month for a low-deductible plan with extensive coverage, as it may still be more affordable than facing out-of-pocket costs for your chronic care needs.

It’s extremely important to weigh the pros and cons of each plan at a variety of price points before making a decision. This will help you use your insurance budget as efficiently as possible without compromising your health needs, which in turn could impact your ability to run your business.

Set Your Writing Fees with Your Insurance Costs in Mind

Health insurance is not a luxury. It’s an overhead cost of running your freelance writing business. As such, it should be reflected in the fees you charge your clients. Before you post your fees, add about 20% to the cost of your writing services. This will offset the cost of paying for your own medical plan, so that you are not struggling to cover your insurance expenses from your income from your writing services alone.

At Writers Work, we are committed to helping freelance writers not only connect with clients but also succeed in running their freelance writing businesses. Tap into the tools in our University Library to learn more about becoming a freelance writer and successfully being your own boss. You can also use our Writers’ Marketplace to give yourself an advantage in building your client base and connecting with the right opportunities for you. Start your membership today with a 30-day, risk-free trial and find out how you can benefit from being part of our community of freelance writers.

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