Freelancers, creative professionals, and solopreneurs are part of a fast-growing economy known as the gig economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the gig economy more popular as people venture into remote work.
However, these workers often struggle to find adequate insurance that meets their needs, particularly when it comes to health insurance. While being a gig worker gives you greater control over your time, it can also come with some challenges, particularly related to health insurance.
It’s a well-known fact that most gig workers don’t receive health insurance benefits from their employers/clients, which can make it challenging to access affordable healthcare.
However, the good news is that there are options available to gig workers so that they too can enjoy the benefits of health insurance. This article will provide valuable insights into health insurance options available for gig workers so that you know what to look for when selecting the best plan for you.
As a gig worker, you are considered self-employed. This means that you don’t have an employer to provide health insurance benefits to you. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to find and purchase health insurance on your own.
There are various types of insurance options available for gig workers, including individual plans, group plans, and marketplace plans. To get started, let’s take a look at a few basic things to know and understand.
One of the essential things any gig worker must consider while shopping for health insurance is the cost. For starters, premiums, deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance percentage are important expenses to look out for when choosing a plan.
Your premium is the amount you pay monthly (or yearly) to keep your insurance policy active. Co-pays refer to the fixed amounts you are responsible for paying for certain covered services like visiting your doctor, while your deductible is the total out-of-pocket amount you are willing to pay before insurance payments kick in. A lower monthly premium often translates to higher deductibles and co-pays.
All too often, consumers purchase a plan with premiums they can afford, but with a deductible they cannot. They do not realize that until the deductible is met, most claims (or bills) will not be paid by the insurance company. However, some companies, such as Southern Guaranty Insurance Company (SGIC), offer personalized supplemental coverage that can fit many budgets. Finally, the coinsurance percentage you choose is how you share costs with your insurance company after you meet your deductible. For example, if you purchase a plan with 80/20 coinsurance, it means that after your deductible is paid, the insurance company pays 80% and you pay 20% of covered medical bills.
It’s crucial to pay attention to what the plan covers. Before signing up for any health insurance plan, it’s vital to ensure it caters to your medical needs, which can include anything from coverage for regular checkups, preventive services, and other essential medical care.
Other essential features to consider include emergency care, prescription drug coverage, and mental health coverage. Since gig workers often have unpredictable schedules, comprehensive coverage ensures that they are well-covered should any complications arise.
With so many different options out there, all covering different things, it’s crucial to know what you need so that you can find a plan that covers it.
Another essential aspect to consider is how user-friendly the health insurance plan is. As a gig worker, having a streamlined and easy-to-use plan for your health insurance is a massive plus.
You don’t want to spend hours trying to figure out the details of your insurance plan, especially when you have a busy schedule. Look for a plan that offers an online portal to easily track claims, and payments, and manage your account.
It’s important to understand open enrollment periods for major medical plans since they are set at certain times of the year. Meaning you can only enroll in or change your health insurance plan during that period. As a gig worker, it’s vital to keep track of these dates and ensure that you are covered throughout the year. Some plans may offer special enrollment periods if there has been a significant life event, such as getting married or having a child.
Enrollment periods can vary from state to state, so it’s important to know the rules and deadlines in your area. Generally, though, it’s from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15.
If you do miss out on open enrollment, don’t just panic yet. There are still a few more options available to you, which we’ll touch on shortly.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what to look for in health insurance as a gig worker, let’s explore some available options.
A medical insurance option with lower premiums is a Limited Indemnity Medical Insurance policy. This type of supplemental insurance pays a fixed, predetermined amount when covered medical events occur, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and diagnostic tests. It’s an affordable way to supplement your income in case unexpected medical events occur while freelancing or working in the gig economy. Please note that limited indemnity plans are not meant to be used as your primary medical coverage and they typically exclude pre-existing conditions.
Marketplace plans or ACA (Affordable Care Act) Plans are available for individuals and families who do not have access to health insurance through an employer. These plans offer comprehensive coverage and may be more affordable than individual plans. Remember, ACA plans are only available for purchse during your state’s open enrollment period or after a qualifying life event.
Another viable option for gig workers is Short-Term Medical Insurance. As the name suggests, this insurance plan provides temporary health coverage for a short period, typically between 30 and 364 days. If you’re in between jobs or transitioning to a new job, Short Term Medical Insurance can help you stay protected. Premiums tend to be lower for short term coverage than for ACA-compliant plans, so it can serve as a temporary safety net for someone on a limited budget. Please note that the availability of short term plans varies by state and they typically exclude pre-existing conditions in the base coverages.
This is also an excellent option if you missed the open enrollment period since you can sign up for a short term medical insurance plan any time of the year.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program in the United States primarily for people aged 65 and older, although it also covers certain younger people with disabilities and individuals with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). The program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care. Medicare is divided into parts:
Part A (Hospital Insurance): Covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care.
Part B (Medical Insurance): Covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.
Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage): Offers prescription drug coverage to everyone with Medicare.
There is also Medicare Advantage (Part C), an alternative to Original Medicare that is offered by private companies approved by Medicare and includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B, usually including prescription drug coverage.
If you’re working over the age of 65 as gig worker and are already enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you may be eligible for Medicare Supplement Insurance, or Medigap. This coverage is designed to fill the gaps left by standard Medicare plans and provide you with truly comprehensive coverage.
For gig workers who are members of the Freelancers Union, there is the option to join one of the health insurance plans they make available to their members. The Freelancers Union offers a variety of coverage options, including dental and vision insurance, at discounted rates for members.
Lastly, if you’re unable to afford any of the above options and you meet specific income requirements, you may be eligible for government-funded health insurance programs such as Medicaid. These programs offer either comprehensive or limited-benefit coverage and can be a lifesaver for gig workers with limited financial resources.
If you leave a job for any reason and lose job-based insurance: You have 60 days from the date you lose coverage to enroll in a marketplace plan. You may also be eligible for an affordable COBRA coverage.
If your income changes: Notify your marketplace about any changes in income, as it may affect your eligibility for premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions.
Don’t forget about taxes: As a gig worker, you are responsible for paying self-employment taxes.
Consult a professional: It’s crucial to consult with an agent or seek assistance from a healthcare navigator when choosing the right health insurance plan for you. They can help evaluate your options and provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and budget.
As a gig worker, it’s essential to prioritize your health and have proper health insurance coverage. With the variety of options available, you can find a plan that meets your needs and fits your budget. Remember to consider costs, coverage, convenience, and enrollment periods when choosing a plan. And if you’re still unsure which option is best for you, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance and send us a message here at Southern Guaranty Insurance Company (SGIC) at email@example.com or the contact form below.