The 10 Best Health Insurance Options for Self-Employed Freelancers

Looking for inexpensive options instead of Obamacare? Here are 10 of the best health insurance options for the self-employed -- and they're all budget-friendly.

As someone who’s been my own boss full-time for nearly 4 years, I am responsible for finding my own health insurance. Due to the  healthcare laws and Affordable Care Act, this is makes it even more difficult to get health insurance for self-employed taxpayers.

What’s the best route for freelancers to take when getting health insurance? How can we still afford good coverage without breaking the bank?

On January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act became fully implemented where individuals and employers alike were mandated to have health insurance coverage — or forced to pay a fine.

In 2015, when I filed my income taxes the tax program estimated that I had to pay a $1,000+ fee if I didn’t have health insurance. That’s quite a large chunk of money for opting out of Obamacare.

So I decided to do some research, and I found some of the best solutions for health insurance for the self-employed — that are also budget-friendly.

1. Health Savings Account (HSA)

Whether you’re self-employed or not, it’s my opinion that everyone should have a HSA. It’s an account that allows you to have much more self-control over health insurance and tax-free funds. Plus, you get a tax deduction for contributing into it.

So what is a Health Savings Account exactly? An HSA is an account that’s linked to a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). It allows you and your family to pay for qualified medical expenses using a separate account.

Normally you get a debit card with the account, so you can easily pay for everything from prescriptions, to Lasik eye surgery and other surgical procedures. It’s an individually owned account that could potentially save you 20-30% on your medical expenses.

And the good news is, you own the account! The money you contribute into an HSA belongs to you and your family to do with as you wish. The only rule is that you must spend it on qualified medical expenses to avoid paying taxes or a penalty.

You start by calculating your contributions, based whether you have single or family health insurance coverage, your age, and your paycheck. Then you can fund your account through tax-deductible contributions.

Any interest earned on the funds is tax-deferred and any withdrawals from the account are tax-free, when spent on approved medical expenses. No matter how long the money remains in the account, you’ll never lose it.

Unlike flexible spending accounts, any money you don’t use in your HSA will remain in your account from year to year, and continue to accrue interest until pay for medical expenses.

Once the balance in your HSA reaches $2,000 or more, you’re eligible to open an HSA Investment Account, where your funds can grow more rapidly than the interest on the savings account.

You can choose from a variety of mutual funds, all supporting a range of investment goals. Then after you turn 65, you can use the funds in your HSA on a taxable basis for anything, not just qualified medical expenses.

This is a simple way to supplement your investing and retirement savings goals — all while protecting you with health insurance coverage! See why I said everyone should have a Health Savings Account?

2. Healthcare sharing ministry

In the event that you have strong beliefs against government-sanctioned programs, like Obamacare, then you should check out a healthcare sharing ministry. Even if you don’t have strong religious beliefs and simply want to stop paying the ridiculous open market health insurance prices, this sharing program is a great alternative.

This is something that my husband and I (who are both self-employed) starting using this past year and have loved the program so far. As a member of a healthcare sharing ministry, you get access to a “shared box” where you contribute a monthly premium to help fund yours, and other members’ health care costs.

With Liberty Healthshare, the program that my husband and I are involved in, we only pay $135 annual fee plus our $307 per month share portion. That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than our $455 per month coverage with Obamacare, and we didn’t even have dental or vision coverage discounts like we do with Liberty Healthshare.

There are other healthshare caring ministries out there, including:

However, if you’re interested in learning more about Liberty Healthshare, send me an email (carefulcents@gmail.com) and I’ll share more about my personal experience.

liberty-healthcare-sharing-ministry

3. Health insurance exchange plans

The Health Benefit Exchange Plan is created under the Afforable Care Act’s regulations where families, individuals and small businesses can shop for affordable health insurance — specifically in the New York area.

“If a sole proprietor doesn’t have the option of being part a group plan such as spousal insurance and they reside in a state that has created its own health insurance exchange, I would suggest they investigate the newly created exchange plans. The exchanges will be open November 1st, for the January 1, 2017 enrollment date. It will give the sole-proprietor plenty of time to compare options,” states Simon Bukai, CEO of Vista Health Solutions.

What makes the health insurance exchanges attractive, is that it has opened up competition for insurance companies to compete on the same playing field and make comparison shopping much easier for the shopper.

Additionally if a self-employed taxpayer’s total income is between 122- 400% of the federal poverty level, then they will likely qualify for a subsidy which will likely reduce their premium to less than 10% of the gross income.

“Most importantly freelancers should be aware that they always have the ability to drop their health insurance plans — without penalty — and can change to a plan that better suits their needs and income,” reminds Simon.

4. eHealth Insurance

Thanks to the recommendation of several Freelancer’s Club members, eHealth Insurance is one of the best health insurance options for self-employed freelancers.

You can compare different health plans available for yourself or your family in the area you currently live. After putting in my information in (Denver, CO, 2 adults), it gave me over 100 options and the cheapest price of about $198 a month.

If you’re in the pre-existing condition pool, no worries, some states offer health plans through a high-risk pool. The government also offers a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, but enrollment is currently suspended.

Depending on the severity of the pre-existing condition, a regular insurance company may not automatically decline (although I’m sure the rates reflect it).

Unfortunately, conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are likely to result in an automatic decline. That’s when the high-risk pool plans and PCIP come in handy.

ehealth insurance

5. National Association for the Self-Employed

NASE is an organization that provides day-to-day support for the self-employed. Besides access to legal and tax professionals, discounts on financial software and payroll services, NASE also gives its members access to affordable health insurance.

Some member benefits give you access to Health Savings Accounts and life insurance policies. Annual memberships cost $25 for students and a max of $120 for general members. The cost includes health insurance premiums, which varies based on state and your personal plan.

As a freelance business owner you also get access to big savings as stores like Office Depot, LegalZoom, QuickBooks, TurboTax and more. Check out their website for more information on member benefits or request a form for insurance.

6. The Freelancers Union

Depending on your state, the Freelancers Union also has excellent health insurance options, as well as loads of other benefits for members. They group members together in order to keep costs much lower than on the individual market. (For example, 30% lower in NY.)

One of the main things that I like about The Freelancers Union is that it’s completely free to join and start browsing their resources, health insurance costs and other insurance needs. To start simply enter your zip code on their website for group rates on health insurance.

Freelancers Union health insurance

7. National Association of Health Underwriters

NAHU represents over 100,000 health insurance agents within the United States. It directs you to local agents that will help find the best plan for your situation as a self-employed freelancer, all while promoting affordable health care.

Much like NASE, NAHU is an organization that helps anyone from large fortune 500 companies to freelancers who prefer an individual experience, or are overwhelmed by all the options. An agent can make the process less confusing and more personable.

In addition, you’ll get access to many of the same benefits and savings as you would with other organizations. There are business and marketing tools, personal development and training, client management apps and even wellness programs to help you gain access to many much-needed benefits.

To learn more, check out the NAHU site and seek out an agent.

nahu_health-insurance

8. COBRA

COBRA is an option for those considering leaving full-time work to freelance and might be a good thing to note if you’re considering full-time freelancing in the future. Remember, health insurance rates and coverage are heavily dependent on resident state and family size.

COBRA is also great for college students who can find discount insurance programs through their school. I know my university offered some pretty low-cost plans with the option to add a spouse or children for a higher rate.

One last note! Approximately 16% of employers offer health insurance offer coverage to part-time employees. It’s a very small group, but freelancers who are willing to work part time for a company, to supplement income, can explore that option.

9. GoHealth

As seen in USA Today, CNBC and FOX News, this resource is very similar to eHealthInsurance.com in what it offers. With GoHealth you just enter your state, you and your family member’s ages and genders, then answer if you’re a smoker/nonsmoker. It then displays a list of providers with different rates and deductibles.

They also have more than 10,000 licensed insurance agents who are available to help match you with the best, and more affordable health care option. Think of GoHealth as your personal matchmaker and platform to help navigate your health insurance plans and costs.

And the best part is they specifically offer self-employed health insurance for those of us who own our own businesses. For more info head over to the GoHealth website.

gohealth-insurance

10. Telemedicine services

Another budget-friendly health insurance alternative that’s gaining popularity are Telemedicine services. Telemedicine services are just like they sound, it’s a medical service that allows you to speak to a qualified doctor via the telephone or video call.

You simply register as a patient and then provide your medical history to a popular telemedicine company. Whenever you have a small medical emergency or need to ask questions, you’ll be connected to a licensed doctor.

Then, depending on your specifics, they can make an educated diagnosis, provide treatment recommendations and even write a prescription if needed. They can also refer you to a primary care physician.

And the best part is that they have access to all of your medical records, which helps them tailor their advice. Since this service is all done over the phone, or virtually, the cost of a checkup or consultation is drastically reduced.

Companies that offer telemedicine services include:

Obviously each company has their own set of pricing and perks, but the core benefit is the same. You can speak to a licensed doctor about any questions or illness you have, virtually at any time.

Using a telemedicine service could save you thousands of dollars on yearly medical visits and checkups, as well as prevent small medical issues from rapidly becoming worse.

Budget-friendly health insurance

The main point of all of this is that it REALLY depends on where you live and who you are covering. These resources should give you a good starting point for finding affordable health insurance coverage as a freelancer.

It will also keep your mind at ease knowing that you and your family are protected if a medical emergency arises. And you won’t have to pay a high penalty on your taxes next year!

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10 comments

  1. I still don’t know much about an HSA. I’ve looked into some of these other things and so far it paid off to just get my own HI privately using a broker. All other things like cobra, unions, etc were much more expensive. Crazy to think since I pay about 230/month and have a 5k deductible. Thanks for the tips!

  2. I’m still a little uncertain/nervous about the health care changes coming this fall.

    I’ve already been notified by my healthcare provider (which I found on eHealthInsurance) that everyone has to pick a new plan this fall.

    I currently pay $110 a month for a high-deductible plan, and I’m guessing I’ll have to pay more. Hopefully I’ll get better benefits, too, at least!

  3. Kevin Haney says:

    On balance I think PPACA will help more self employed people than it will help.

    It will help those just starting out whose incomes may be low. This is where the subsidies make a big difference. It will also help anyone with a preexisting condition who was unable to buy individual coverage in the past.

    It may hurt people taking advantage of spousal coverage, as the law does not require group plans to cover spouses, or make the coverage affordable.

  4. Dr. Taffy Wagner says:

    According to an article I read in Psychology Today by John C.Goodman, heath savings accounts are being affected by Obamacare. The allowed deductible is being reduced.

    Another option is a discount medical or dental program. They are not insurance, yet it provides a solution for people who can’t afford the high cost of health insurance. You can see such a resource at http://www.mybenefitsplus.com/twagner .

    Great article!!! Research is the key to get a solution for your particular situation.

  5. Donns says:

    I have a unique situation. I am a widow now for 10 years (I am 45) and until last fall living on SSI. I am not required to file taxes since my only income is SSI. The down side of that is I do not qualify for Obama care. Last fall I started a t-shirt business(funded by my mother) and still way in the red. I do not have health insurance, do not qualify for state assistance. What would you recommend????

  6. Celise says:

    Although I am nowhere near close to becoming self-employed, I do think about stuff like this because it’ll be part of that “how much do you want to make?” process. I would LOVE to have the same coverage I do right now with my FT job. It’s Cigna, and for the first time EVER, my office visit copay to my naturopathic doctor is only $40! All the other insurances I’ve had (including when I was on my hubby’s for a couple of years), I’ve always had to pay out of pocket. And those visits were always over $100. That’s something else I’ll have to think about if/when I become self-employed. My hubby’s plan sucks, so I will definitely have to factor in the healthcare thing myself. Thanks for this great post! I’m going to bookmark it. 🙂

  7. Iris Bonet says:

    Thank you so much for this information. Really soon I’m planning on becoming a full time freelancer, but our insurance is through my FT job right now. Health insurance is the part I’m most concerned about because my husband is a type 1 diabetic (since he was 9) and it’s really important to me that he’s covered since insulin is VERY expensive. I’m definitely saving this. (Never knew about Healthcare Sharing Ministry!!)

  8. Marty Heu says:

    I personally have Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM). They offer plans starting at $45 go up to $150 for the gold plan.

    The gold plan has a maximum of $500 out of pocket expenses and they will be waived if you can show that you got self-pay discount (which is easy to do). I went to the ER last December $4K in bills, when I told them I am out of pocket they told me the flat rate is $450. Because I could show the bill was reduced to $450 (so $3,500 discount) I ended up paying nothing at all out of pocket (ok I had to pay the $450 up front).

    My wife gave birth to our son, the complete pregnancy (docs, pre and post, hospital, bloodwork, medicine, tests) was completely covered by CHM. In the end I paid 0 because we obtained self pay discount. Hope this helps everyone. Have a blessed day!

    • Parrish says:

      This sounds great. please explain to me the process with the hospital bill.
      1. when you went to the hospital did they except your CHM insurance?
      2. also when you go to the Dr. do they accept your CHM insurance or do you have to pay up front and get reimbursed. ?

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