It goes without saying that you need health insurance, even when you participate as a gig worker and take on contract work instead of working for an employer. You might not even get that excited about paying for health insurance because you're not sure whether you'll make any money in the next week, let alone over the next six months.
The gig economy continues to explode. On average, one in four workers serves as a gig worker in 40% of companies. In 6% of companies, gig workers make up as much as 85% of the workforce. Finally, the workforce in the finance sector makes up 25% of gig workers, primarily independent contractors, according to ADP Research Institute's recent report.
Curious about how to find health insurance if you live and breathe the gig economy? Take a look at a few quick tips below.
How Gig Workers Can Get Health Insurance
How do you get health insurance as a gig worker? We'll go over a few options.
Option 1: Self-Employed Health Insurance
Self-employed health insurance, also called individual health insurance, offers a plan directly the opposite of a group health insurance plan from an employer. In most cases, you must enroll during the open enrollment period. You can take a look at the various plans available on the Marketplace, a shopping and enrollment service for medical insurance created by the Affordable Care Act through the federal government.
Option 2: Spouse or Domestic Partner's Plan
I recently ventured out into the gig economy and I chose this option — staying on my spouse's plan. You can often tap into lower premiums when you hop on a spouse or domestic partner's plan because the employer and employee split the premium cost.
More than half of non-elderly Americans had group health insurance coverage through their employer or the employer of their family member in 2019.
Employees with a same sex or opposite sex domestic partner can also get health and/or dental insurance for their domestic partner and family.
Option 3: COBRA
Thinking about leaving your job to try out the big, wide world of gig working? You may want to find out if you can convert your group plan into an individual plan before you say sayonara. Your plan provider can explain how the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) might fit your coverage options best. COBRA specifies that you can extend your health care coverage up to 18 months after you leave your job.
COBRA gives you a kind of safety net by giving you more time to look into various insurance options.
Option 4: Gig Worker Associations
Did you know that you can get insurance as a gig worker? You sure can!
For example, the Freelancers Union offers a health insurance plan. You can also find dental coverage and life insurance. If you belong to a professional association, find out whether it offers coverage before you strike out on your own or try the Marketplace. It might offer a cheaper option.
How to Get Health Insurance
First of all, remember that in all likelihood, you will qualify for the special enrollment period. This means you may have 60 days before or 60 days following the event to enroll in a plan. This may make it convenient for you to take some time to evaluate the right health insurance option for you. Take these two simple steps to get health insurance:
Step 1: Compare costs.
Ask yourself these questions among each plan you consider:
- How much do you pay for the premium per month?
- What is the annual plan deductible? A higher deductible means you pay a lower premium and a lower deductible means you pay a higher premium. Learn more about what you need to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance plan will kick in and start paying.
- What will you pay out of pocket for the entire year, also referred to as your out-of-pocket maximum?
- What are the coinsurance and copayment (copay) amounts? The coinsurance percentage refers to how you and the insurance policy split the cost of care. Your copay involves how much you pay for a covered service, which you pay to your doctor before you receive the doctor's care.
Step 2: Sign up for a plan.
You may want to make your first stop healthcare.gov. You can find a multitude of options on the Marketplace for your state. You can also opt to use a private company if you don't want to get insurance on the Marketplace.
All ACA plans must cover the following:
- Emergency services
- Out-patient services
- Maternity and newborn care
- Mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder services
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative services
- Laboratory services
- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
- Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
Just know that insurance companies can choose how they handle these benefits. You still need to pay your premium to keep your plan every month and all might have various copays!
Choose the Right Health Insurance Option for You
When you think you might be ready to jump ship from the nine to five slog, remember that you still need to think about practical matters — freedom and "being your own boss" aside.
No matter what, remember that you need to get health insurance. Don't even think for one second that you can go for one day without health insurance. Remember, even a simple surgery like taking out an inflamed appendix can cost thousands of dollars.
You want to do as much research in advance prior to leaving your job (if you can) so you can find the best health care option for your personal situation.
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