Healthcare. It’s a topic on everyone’s mind, from small business owners to employees at giant corporations. If you’re a freelancer or are self-employed, there are a few things you should be aware of, because it’s your responsibility to secure your own health insurance. In the US, there have been several noteworthy updates to Obama Care that affect you. The good news is: they’re all supporting everyone, self-employed or otherwise, having quality health insurance.
With open enrollment for obtaining health insurance available through
While paying premiums for health insurance may be financially burdensome for some, the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act establishes a system whereby an individual will either pay a premium or pay a penalty of up to 2.5% of their annual income. The good news is that there are some changes to celebrate via the ACA such as: it is now illegal for insurance carriers to deny or charge more for health insurance coverage if a person has a pre-existing condition, and many individuals now qualify for tax credits or financial assistance that lessen individual tax loads or trim the expense of monthly premiums.
There are many options for entrepreneurs, freelancers, self-employed workers, and contractors who want to purchase individual health care coverage. Here are a few ways to get started:
#1. Check out Healthcare.gov Marketplace or your State Exchange Equivalent
The exchanges allow consumers to compare rates and benefits with a one-stop shop. However, the tsunami of information may be overwhelming. The marketplace and state exchanges have a few exclusive advantages. One is that if you qualify for tax credits or subsidies, you are only eligible for them if you buy your insurance via the exchange or marketplace.
The other is that all health insurance available through the exchanges satisfies the 10 essential health benefits as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. There are agents and brokers that can help you enroll at no extra cost.
#2. Use an Independent Broker or Agent to Find Coverage
Just as you use an agent or broker to purchase other insurance products, you can utilize the services of a professional to procure health insurance. An insurance professional can match you with the best coverage for the best price. In addition, he can explain the varied options to you and come with a customized solution that satisfies your priorities, unlike the rigid options of the exchanges. A broker will also be there if you need assistance or clarification down the road. He has an incentive to help you find the best coverage for your specific needs.
Also remember that some sole proprietors may qualify for policies that cost less than individual plans, and a qualified broker or agent can help you locate these alternatives.
#3. Investigate Health Insurance Offered Through Professional Organizations
Another option is to look for a professional association that represents specialists in your field and use the advantage of numbers to find affordable health care insurance. Some local chambers of commerce also offer health care insurance options for the self-employed and entrepreneurs. Alumni associations or other organizations may also offer group health plans for which you may be eligible. One note of caution: the individual market actually may have lower premiums.
#4. Look Into Private Insurance Companies for a Healthcare Policy
Just as you can buy other insurance policies without an agent or a broker, you can also go directly to insurance carriers and buy insurance. If you’ve had a good experience in the past or have had good referrals from satisfied customers, you may feel confident undertaking the purchase of health care plan under your own steam. In doing so, you take responsibility for understanding the ins and outs of your policy.
One word of warning: make sure that you’re actually buying insurance and not some other product. You can check with your state regulator to verify that the company you’re dealing with is a reliable insurer.
#5. Determine if Your Spouse’s Health Plan Will Accommodate You as a Dependent
If you are partnered and your partner is employed, you may want to check with his or her health plan coverage to see if you’re eligible to be covered as a dependent. Some of the changes to health care rules for employers have actually eliminated the requirement for coverage of spouses, as under the ACA, employers are only mandated to proffer insurance to the employee’s children. However, every business is different, and you may have more choices than you know if you only ask.
If you miss the enrollment deadline, you may still have options for obtaining health care coverage. Keep in mind that you may not be assessed the penalty or fee if you are without coverage for less than 90 days. Changes in income, the death of a covered member of your household, and other changes can affect your ability to qualify for a special enrollment period. However, pay attention to time limits on the special enrollment periods. You may have to take action quickly in order to use them to the best advantage.
If you are self-employed or freelancing, you may have a need for other insurance policies to protect your financial interests and investments. Supplemental insurance such as disability insurance can help replace lost income if you become too ill to work and will protect your financial freedom in the long term. Talk to an agent or broker if you think these options are best for you.
The key is: educate yourself and make sure you have appropriate coverage for you and your family.
Images: ”Caution Sign – Health Insurance Changes Ahead /Shutterstock.com“
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