3 tips for freelancers shopping for health insurance

Colin Lalley 1600


Colin Lalley

Colin Lalley

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

Published November 22, 2016|5 min read

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Updated Sept. 23, 2019: Freelancers are in charge of...well, everything. That includes buying your very own health insurance policy. You don’t have an employer setting your hours or hassling you about timesheets, so why should you have someone telling you what health insurance you should buy?

But because freelancers are in charge of everything, you might not put your health insurance top of mind. Who better to tout the importance of insurance than two freelance writers who also happen to be personal finance experts?

Miranda Marquit of Planting Money Seeds and Angela Nelson of The Work at Home Wife shared their thoughts on, and experiences with, health insurance:

Let’s dive a little deeper into how freelancers can use health insurance to build a better plan for their future.

You have less of a safety net

Don’t get me wrong – it’s possible for freelancers to have a very strong safety net. You can build your emergency fund and have smart budgets. But you don’t get benefits like sick leave or employer-provided disability insurance.

Even freelancers with the most hustle have an irregular income. You finish a project, a client drops out or – fingers crossed – you close a big new deal. You don’t want the boring day-to-day of an office job, but a little consistency when it comes to money isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s be honest: You might not want to pay for your health insurance every month, but isn’t a low regular cost worth avoiding the huge, unexpected cost that a medical bill can bring?

Let’s look at Miranda’s example from the video above: She broke her wrist and learned that, without health insurance, it would have cost $40,000. That’s like paying for a really nice car, except instead of a car you get a broken wrist, so it’s actually the worst deal ever.

Compare that to being part of the 80% of people who can get a health insurance policy for less than $75 a month. I crunched the numbers so you didn’t have to: at $75 a month, you could go 533 months – almost 44 and a half years – before you spent $40,000.

Building a budget is easy. You can use an app like You Need A Budget or a simple spreadsheet. Plug that $75 into your budget and you can more or less forget about the danger that medical bills pose.

Or you can not buy it and worry about blasting through your emergency fund and heading straight for looming bankruptcy every time you trip over the rug in your apartment.

Your choice.

You don’t have to be a health insurance expert

Freelancers are, if not a team of one, then a team of very few. You have to be an expert in your field. You have to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies. You have to know who the right clients are, how to approach them and how to deliver.Do you really need to know everything there is to know about health insurance, too?

You should definitely know the basics. If you don’t, don’t feel bad: our survey, shows most Americans aren’t really up to speed on what their health insurance policy means.

There’s a lot that goes into health insurance. How many doctors are in your network? What’s the tradeoff between what you can afford and what’s available? What’s the difference between getting a federal subsidy and qualifying for Medicaid?

Both our freelancers pointed out that health insurance can be confusing, and when you’re bogged down in jargon, it can be easy to not see the forest for the trees. You’re so busy trying to remember what coinsurance means that you forget to check if the plan you chose covers your prescription medication.

Go into health insurance shopping with a plan – know what you’re willing to compromise on, what you actually need, and what’s important to you – so you can make the most out of open enrollment.

You can find affordable options

Health insurance premiums can be kind of a lot in some places. But that doesn’t mean you can’t afford it. You just have to know where to look – and what to look for.

Let’s go back to that stat from earlier: 80% of shoppers can find a health insurance plan for less than $75 a month. Part of this is thanks to federal subsidies, which lowers the cost of health insurance considerably for some people.

If you’re young, healthy, and/or you haven’t gone to the doctor for much more than a checkup in the past, you’re probably good with a low-premium, high-deductible plan. You’ll have to foot more of the bill if something comes up, but you’ll probably save in the long run by not paying high upfront costs.

On the other hand, if you have a chronic condition that requires a lot of doctor visits, or if you know you’re planning on getting pregnant or getting a surgery, a high premium plan might not be ideal, but if it means you hit your deductible sooner and your insurance starts covering costs sooner, it could be better for your budget.Don’t forget to shop around. Read our guide on how to sign up for a health plan.

You stay on top of a lot of deadlines as a freelancer – when projects are due, when payments are supposed to come in – so you should stay on top of your health insurance deadlines, too. To get coverage for 2020, the federal deadline is Dec. 15, 2019. Some states have extended their enrollment period, so be sure to see what's going on in your state with our state by state Open Enrollment guide.

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