Benjamin Franklin was among the earliest Americans to signify the image of self-employment: hard-work, long hours, and an unquestionable drive to succeed. Many of today’s Americans share Franklin’s beliefs and practices, but few manage to do so without compromising their own health, or the security of knowing that good care is available.
Today is, in many respects, the age of overpaying for health insurance, and no subset of Americans knows this better than the self-employed. It is not uncommon for self-employed individuals to pay twice as much for month health insurance as their employee-benefitted peers. And when it comes to seeking out economical, sensible care, self-employed individuals too often feel that the odds are stacked against them.
To this statement, many would ask: Is it possible to find a way out of this scenario?
The answer is yes. And although miracles are not possible, there is no reason that hard-working, self-employed individuals can’t find care that suits their needs, at a price that they can afford.
The fastest way to see what options are available is to plug terms into a search engine, and find a site that lets you compare prices. These sites are common, and although the numbers here can be quite daunting, this is a good way to get your feet wet on the types of individual care plans that insurance companies generally offer.
You could, alternatively, go straight to the insurers themselves to see what prices and plans are available for purchase. It’s important to note that these options aren’t going to be cheap. In fact, plans offered through online brokerage sites, as they are called, and insurance company websites, are among the highest you will come across.
Marriage Into Healthcare
Marriage offers the benefit of dual health insurance to those who qualify. In other words, if your spouse receives healthcare benefits from an employer, you too can benefit from that same care. All you have to do is inquire with the employer to find out how to get started. In most cases, the process is easy, and the transition is quick.
COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act. This Act allows fired employees to continue to benefit from their former-employer’s insurance policy. If you recently became self-employed after losing your job, this might be the best way for you to get healthcare. Individuals who qualify can stay insured for up to 18 months.
One stipulation is cause for concern, however. Most employee plans only require you to pay a percentage of your premium every month, whereas COBRA requires you to pay premiums in full. So even if you qualify, this option might prove to be more expensive than it it’s worth.
If you think back to the formation of Labor Unions in this country, one of the main reasons of organizing a workers’ body was to provide members with healthcare. The same can be said for many organizations operating today, including bar organizations and arts organizations. More often than not, these communities offer some form of healthcare to their members. Larger, national organizations may even offer fully subsidized care.
If you’re a member of a professional organization, this possibility is worth looking into.
Health insurance brokerages may be a thing of the past, but the truth is that many people can benefit from sitting down at a desk and talking to a professional about their health insurance needs. The web contains pages upon pages of information at zero cost to the consumer, but an informed professional can save you time, and even money, if you find the right broker.
Medicaid, like many other social services programs, was set up to insure that people who cannot afford care are able to receive it, at little to no cost. The common misconception is that only the extreme poor are eligible for government-sponsored healthcare. The truth is that many Americans fulfill the requirements for eligibility in most states.
Medicaid eligibility is determined by income, and generally, individuals who make an annual income above up to 100% of the Federal Poverty Line can apply to receive Medicaid.
And the number is rising. The Affordable Care Act includes a Medicaid Extension, which will effectively raise the number to 133% above the FPL. That means more people will qualify for care in the future.
More about The Affordable Care Act
Self-employed individuals are mandated to purchase health insurance under the ACA, which means that if you choose to go without health insurance, you will have to pay an annual fee.
The fee for the first year is $95, but it will continue to rise over the next three years, at which point the fee will be tied to the rate of inflation.
For those of us who plan to have healthcare, a noted benefit of the AAC is choice. How it works is simple: The Federal Government requires states to set up online marketplaces, which allow the consumer to choose her healthcare plan and provider, while providing the consumer with a range of possible tax credits.
Payment is assessed according to income, with lower income consumers paying less for insurance. So, if you make anywhere between 100 and 400% above the FPL, you will not pay more than 9.6% of your annual income toward health insurance.
States are also offered the choice to extend Medicaid coverage under the AAC, which would result in a rise of the income requirement to 133% of the FPL, as I mentioned, and also allow single childless adults the opportunity to apply for Medicaid. Twenty-six states are currently either on board or leaning toward accepting the extension, once the AAC takes affect in 2014.
Current legislation on the healthcare front is indeed a step forward, and it seems that the forward movement is not stopping anytime soon. The Self-Employed are among the most valuable workers this country has. Thankfully, there are many ways in which these valued members of society can seek out the care that is best for them, and receive that care, on their own terms.