Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Health Benefit Options for Freelancers and Independent Consultants

Author:Stephanie Larkin Source:none Hits:47 UpdateTime:2008-6-24 21:27:21

Freelance workers, independent consultants and independent contractors enjoy many advantages. Their schedules are flexible, they set their own agenda, and with a little planning, they can take extended time off. However, while these benefits can improve quality of life, there are other benefits that these workers do not receive, such as health insurance. Finding health insurance as a freelancer or independent consultant is one of the most challenging aspects of being a sole proprietor. A variety of insurance options are available to these workers, however finding a plan that the worker qualifies for and can afford is the difficult part. Of the many choices in insurance available, independent contractors and independent consultants may be surprised once they start shopping that some are unavailable to them, some are too expensive, and others offer poor or unnecessary coverage. By the time these workers narrow down the choices to the affordable insurers that will accept them, the list may be very short indeed.

Group Insurance

Group insurance coverage is undoubtedly the best insurance plan overall. In a group plan there is no need to qualify, no medical exams, no health questions to answer and the rates are the same for everyone and do not raise with claims. That being said, if you are self-employed, group health insurance is very difficult to find. Group health insurance is typically provided by employers, and, since an independent contractor works for themselves, there is no employer. If your spouse is employed, you have recently been employed and qualify for COBRA, or you can get your employment covered under an umbrella company, it may be possible to receive group coverage. If you can qualify for group insurance, you will probably find it to be the most affordable and most inclusive of the insurance options that you find.

Insurance through an Association or Chamber of Commerce

In their effort to ease the financial hardships for sole proprietors, many professional organizations and local chambers of commerce offer insurance to their members. These policies are not true group policies, but pooled risk policies. A pooled risk policy can still be affordable, particularly if you are young, have no serious medical conditions, and have low risk of an accident. Because you generally receive an individual insurance premium rate, members with pre-existing conditions or those in poor health may find that they pay a higher rate. Also, unlike in a group plan, your rate can, and will, change as a result of claims. Even those in good health that are in a pooled risk policy will usually pay more for coverage than someone with group coverage, but, overall, the insurance choices provided by professional organizations can be a good choice for self-employed workers.

Coverage through the State

Some states offer medical insurance benefits programs. In many cases, health insurance that is offered through your state is not a great choice. While each state offers its own plan and they vary widely, a state plan does not typically cover the full spectrum of preventative care and may be very limited with regard to prescription coverage. Coverage through the state is sometimes called catastrophic coverage, intended to prevent financial ruin if a self employed worker becomes seriously ill or injured. State coverage may also have income limits (intended for lower income individuals) or other qualifying factors. State coverage can be an option to explore, but you should also make sure that you have money in your savings to cover routine preventative office visits, the cost of medications, and reserve funds in case you need to come up with partial payments for something more serious.

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