Freelancer-medical-insuranceOne of the major downsides of operating as an independent contractor is that you are on the hook for your own health insurance payments. Sure you can make a lot more money than you might as an employee, but the lion’s share of the overage could go to pay for your medical insurance if you’re not careful. Luckily, there are plenty of options that don’t require you to take out a second mortgage on your home or sell your soul to the devil in order to ensure that your medical expenses will be covered in case of illness, accident, or injury. So rather than shelling out the big bucks for brand name insurance, here are a few options you may want to consider.

While your first inclination may be to select a known provider like the one you had at your old job (Blue Cross, United, etc.), this is likely to be the most expensive option. Even if you are eligible for COBRA coverage, which allows you to continue on the group plan you held at your former job, you can only retain coverage for up to 18 months (barring medical circumstances that caused you to leave your place of employment, which could result in extended coverage). And you’ll have to pay a lot more for the privilege. Instead, you might want to explore other options.

A good place to start is with the Freelancers Union (www.freelancersunion.org). This unique organization focuses on the needs of independent workers of all types, from journalists and graphic designers to construction workers, caregivers, actors, and more. And this online community not only provides a directory for members to connect and a calendar of events they can attend, but also offers resources to create contracts and do taxes, as well as an extensive section on insurance and benefits options. Members can gain access to information about medical, dental, and life insurance, but there are also options provided for retirement plans. And the website offers a list of providers that have policies geared towards freelancers. In other words, it is an excellent resource for finding the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

Of course, you should also take the time to comparison shop in order to ensure that you’re getting the best deal. Suppose, for example, that you are young, healthy, and you have a clean medical history; you might not be keen to pay full price for a health insurance policy that you’re unlikely to use. But you also don’t want to be sans coverage in the event of an unexpected medical emergency. In this case you might want to consider discount insurance that offers you coverage at greatly reduced prices.

The only caveat here is that you must read the fine print for your policy. Often, coverage is limited. While your average insurance will pay for most preventive care visits and cover 80% or more of medical bills (after deductible), most discount plans won’t cover preventive care and will only pay something like 65% of medical costs. However, there may be restrictions on the type of care that is covered, so you’ll have to go over your policy with a fine-tooth comb so you don’t end up with a nasty shock down the road, should you go with this option. Of course, you can also find quotes for all kinds of insurance policies at Kanetix or similar websites. The point is that you really need to shop around until you find the policy that best suits your needs and your budget.

Photo credit: freefreelancewritingtips.blogspot.com

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