As companies cut their budgets and shrink their workforces, more people are considering freelance work and self-employment as a career option. Taking this route offers many rewards, but also challenges, since self-employment means you (rather than your employer) will need to cover all the financial aspects of running a business. This can include office and work space, marketing expenses, and supplies, but as an individual one huge expense you may not have been exposed to before is that you will be in a position to need to pay for your own health insurance.
Health insurance costs are high for individuals, and while COBRA (government-mandated health care legislation which allows individuals to retain the care their employers provided at basic rates) are certainly open to those who are downsized or leave their employers under certain circumstances, this massive expense can be stifling, so here are five ways to save money on health insurance for the self-employed:
1. Freelancers can go to the fastgrowing Freelancer’s Union to investigate costs of benefits like health insurance, as well as retirement savings, vision and dental plans, and even just to connect. In New York, the Freelancer’s Union offers a variety of plans with monthly premiums as low as $159 per month – on par with what many pay for COBRA coverage on the least expensive plans! Keep in mind that if you anticipate medical costs, a low monthly premium may carry with it a high deductible, and so in the long run you may be better off paying more per month to avoid paying as much if you wind up in the hospital.
2. Shop around. Just because your old company’s insurance is what you’re used to doesn’t mean there aren’t better and cheaper plans for individuals at other health insurance companies. Websites such as insurelane.com let you search for coverage based on physical factors and geographical location, and offer comparisons across a number of health insurance providers.
3. Be aware of what doctors and hospitals are in (and out) of health insurance provider’s networks. Saving money is great, but if it means giving up doctors you’ve had for years you may want to weigh the benefits of getting to know – and getting known by – a new set of medical professionals.
4. Bundle your insurances. If you’re able to find a health insurance broker who sells policies for health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance (and maybe even 401(k) plans) you may be able to get a better rate on each individual policy by selecting two or more. While it’s not always less expensive to go through a broker, sometimes this method can save in the long run.
5. Only get the insurance you need. Be aware of your month to month medical costs, and if you find that you regularly spend a certain amount, find the plan that offers that amount of coverage – and don’t go higher just because you want to look out for what happens ‘just in case’ of an accident. Anything can happen at any time, so make sure emergency coverage is good, but be sensible about what kinds of coverage you are actually likely to use.