One of the largest difficulties freelancers face.
Can I afford health insurance for myself? Which provider should I get? Do I qualify for Freelancer’s Union insurance? How high or low should my deductible be? Should I get a HSA plan? Do I have to get health insurance before Obamacare goes into effect?
It’s a mental maze that can keep you up at night.
When I went freelance almost two years ago, I PROMISED myself I would get health insurance no matter what. And I did. A broker found me a Blue Cross and Blue Shield HSA (Health Savings Account) plan for $110/month with a high deductible and no co-pays. I knew it was essentially “catastrophic insurance”, but I was happy to at least have something. After a short period of time my plan went up for no reason and the financial burden of paying for basic doctor visits became too much. When a pain in my right side popped up last winter, simple blood tests ended up costing me over $500. I was sad and frustrated, and, knock on wood, I have extremely minor issues to deal with as compared to others. I often think about my parents- one who works at Staples at 62 years of age simply so she can have health insurance and another who at 60 can’t find any plan cheaper than $300 a month (again, “catastrophic”; good insurance would cost him between $500-$600). That’s nothing compared to the people who routinely get bad care, kicked out of hospitals or don’t seek important medical treatment solely because of their inadequate insurance or lack thereof. It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear these stories over and over again. So many people die because of our terrible healthcare system.
As a person who tries to inform herself with social issues and politics, I will tell you that Obamacare has been extremely confusing to understand (I also live in a state, Texas, that makes it extra confusing). Though we can read the Obamacare facts over and over, do we truly know how this is going to affect us all in the long run? Maybe I’m being a pessimist, but as a Obama supporter, he has been disappointing me a lot lately.
*Update: I found an AWESOME article on GOOD by Sunaina Sondhi that is a comprehensive and easy-to-understand breakdown of Obamacare. I highly recommend taking a look!
Last week I finally had enough with my Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan that was going up and not covering anything. I checked out the Freelancer’s Union website to see if I could get insurance through there, but discovered that they don’t cover Austin. Instead they recommend inexpensive plans through UnitedHealthOne. I sent a message out on social media asking what people thought of UnitedHealthOne and I got mixed reviews. Some people enjoy it, while my friend and fellow blogger Tolly Moseley said her UnitedHealthOne premiums went up over $100 in a short period of time. Because of this she switched to Humana. I did a quick Google search of reviews on Blue Cross and Blue Shield, UnitedHealthOne, and Humana and I can tell you that the latter two frequently came up as quality providers in the state of Texas, while Blue Cross and Blue Shield received many complaints (this confirmed my want to leave Blue Cross and Blue Shield). Without even thinking, I called Humana and was delighted to talk to a friendly person on the phone. I told her my situation and she unhurriedly broke down what plans they had to offer. Their most popular plan, the one I ended up getting, offer co-pays on doctor and specialist visits, a 70/30 break after the deductible is met with a $7,500 out-of-pocket max, co-pay on prescriptions and a $2,5000 deductible. This plan costs the same as my Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage ($130/month) which covered NONE of these features until my high deductible was met. I also added a dental plan for only $30 more (dental plans are typically a waste of money, but since I have some major work to be done, the couple extra hundred bucks I might save will be worth it). If you want an even higher deductible with Humana, you can get the same plan in the low $100s or under $100.
I have yet to use my new insurance, but I already know I have a much better provider than before that many of my regular doctors take. Also, I always trust what Tolly says.
Moral of the story: Humana is a great and affordable option for freelancers in Texas. As mentioned above UnitedHealthOne has good reviews as well, but I would recommend staying away from Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I had good experiences with that provider in other states, but not in Texas. As for HSA plans, I was talked into one by the broker. In theory, they are a good way to go: you set aside money that is untaxed to put towards medical bills. However, if you’re a freelancer and don’t make much, this isn’t going to help. I never put money aside and neither the broker or the Blue Cross and Blue Shield website made it easy for me to figure out how to.
If you are a freelancer and covered by another provider, please share your experiences in the comments! I would love to get a dialogue going about this.
I asked a couple of freelancer friends their experiences with health insurance. This is what they had to say:
Tolly Mosely from Austin Eavesdropper: Ross and I got insurance through United Health/GoldenRule back in the summer of 2010. At the time, we were both working jobs with no health benefits, and he was about to travel to South America so I signed us up. It was pretty much like having no insurance because we had to pay out-of-pocket on all our doctor’s and dental visits, but hey! If Ross caught that disease where a tiny poisonous fish swims up your pee stream and infects your manhood, then at least we’d only have to pay five thousand on his surgeries.
Kristin Sheppard from Mad Betty: Freelance has the best perks in the world: ultimate schedule, working in your pajamas, hand picking your clients. There’s no counting meager vacation days and lamenting a long stretch of time without a day off. It’s a dream. Unless you get sick.