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5 Tips for Buying Affordable Health Insurance When You Work for Yourself

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health insurance for freelancers and entrepreneurs

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Graduating college used to be enough to land you the perfect job with the perfect benefits package. But these days, a lot of us are working part-time jobs with fewer or no benefits, whether out of choice or until we land the job we really want (and in some cases, any job).

But compromising your health insurance also compromises your health and your checkbook. Luckily, individual health insurance is available to bridge employment gaps, provide additional coverage or keep you covered while you build a company or create your own job. Navigating the individual health-insurance market can be challenging at best, especially if this is your first time in this territory.

If you’re newly on the hunt for your own health insurance, here are five tips to keep in mind, straight from our licensed agents at eHealthInsurance:

1. Only buy what you need

It sounds obvious, but sometimes shoppers forget they have options when it comes to purchasing from their health insurance plan’s “a la carte” menu.

In most states, benefits like maternity coverage, brand-name prescription drug coverage and chiropractic care are all optional. If it’s important to keep your costs low, make sure you don’t buy a plan that covers benefits you don’t need.

2. Look at more than the monthly premium

You want your monthly premium to be a cost you can afford, but don’t forget to check out each plan’s annual out-of-pocket limit. This is the yearly limitation on what you’ll be responsible for paying – in addition to your monthly premiums.

Your annual out-of-pocket limit combines deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance. Once you reach it, your insurer picks up the remaining costs for that year. If that annual amount is more than you can afford, look for another plan or consider buying a different plan and adding supplemental coverage for your worst-case scenario.

3. Make sure your doctor is in the network

How much is your favorite doctor worth?  If you want to continue to visit a particular physician, make sure he or she is within the physician network specified by the insurance plan you’re considering – otherwise you might have to pay a hefty fee to see that familiar face.

At eHealthInsurance.com, you can use our “Plans with Your Doctor” tool to see only those plans that are accepted by your doctor.

4. Don’t overvalue brand names

Before buying solely based on your perception of a certain brand, do some homework to see how other people feel about it. Our site actually lists customer reviews of most plans, as well as ratings that reflect the company’s credit rating and ability to pay claims. Using those ratings rather than being closed-minded about sticking to or avoiding a certain brand name could help save you big money.

5. Don’t forget your eyes and teeth

Don’t make the mistake of assuming vision and dental benefits are included in your health insurance plan. That might be the case for some company-backed policies, but in the individual market, these types of benefits must be purchased separately from your health insurance policy.

Sometimes you can buy them as add-ons to your policy under the same insurer, while other insurers might not offer them at all, which means you’ll have to find a different insurer for those benefits.

Carrie McLean is senior manager of customer service & retention at EHealthInsurance. If you need help choosing an insurer, check out our “for dummies” health insurance guide.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.automaticfinances.com junger

    We just switched to an individual policy from ehealthinsurance. It’s a high-deductible plan, which means the premiums are low and you really only pay for what you need.

    It also works great with an HSA, so we can deposit tax-deductible money that earns interest tax-free and can be used to pay for out-of-pocket expenses.

  • Jrandom42

    Interesting concept. But if the ACA is repealed, there’s no way ypu’ll find an individual policy that’s affordable, if you have chronic medical conditionts, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or anything else like that.

    What do you do in that case?

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  • http://www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com Greg Miliates

    Health care is typically one of your biggest expenses, sometimes eating as much or more of your budget as housing. Going without health insurance is extremely risky: the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy is medical costs. The problem is, if you’re self-employed, you have fewer affordable options for health insurance.

    After looking at health plans and being turned down due to my wife’s pre-existing condition (2 hip replacements), we went through an insurance broker to set up our current health plan, which is actually part of a state-sponsored program created by the state legislature specifically for small businesses. Without it, we’d likely be paying much more than we already do, and would likely have very reduced coverage.

    To reduce costs, you can pay healthcare premiums as an employee benefit (depending on the structure of your business). I own a small consulting company, and my s-corp pays 100% of my health insurance premiums (I’m the sole employee)–which is essentially like saying that I pay my health insurance with pre-tax dollars,

    For myself, my wife, and our 2 kids, I pay $1,200.00 per month; that’s over $14,000.00 per year, and that all gets paid as an employee benefit, which essentially means that those healthcare premiums are paid using pre-tax dollars. Not cheap, but it’s necessary.

    Greg Miliates
    http://www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com/start-here/

  • Daynasuzanne

    As a lady in her child-bearing years, at what point should I add maternity coverage? I’m not currently planning a child but am considering one in the next, say, 2-5 years, should I forgo it for now and add it when I’m serious about getting pregnant? If I become pregnant accidentally, can I add it then? Or would that be a ‘pre-existing condition’ that an insurance company wouldn’t cover? Just curious how that all works. I do not currently have health insurance and need to know what to include when I do.

    • Dalton

      You can purchase individual coverage with or without maternity. If you purchase without and then accidently become pregnant, you cannot change until after the birth. You will want to weight the risk. I would suggest looking at a High Deducible Health Plan which can have lower premiums and have health coverage in case something comes up. Wtih the premium savings you could invest in a Health Savings Account for Medical, Dental and Vision expenses (similiar to a Medical IRA). Good Luck

  • Deadhedge

    This Blog post should be marked “promotional material.” The writer works for a website that sells health insurance and gets paid by the health insurance company when people purchase health insurance through their site.

    While the advice and intent is fine, this post is advertising and could generate revenue for her company and should have disclaimers to indicate this. I don’t fault the writer as this is a good alternative lead generation.

    I do fault Brazen Careerist for a lack of transparency and blurring the line between a blog post and marketing. Please be more upfront about your content and include appropriate disclaimers in the future. Would allow me to put a link advertising my affiliate relationship in the comments?

    • http://alexisgrant.com/ Alexis Grant

      Hey Deadhedge — Alexis here, editor of the blog. The truth is, a lot of our posts are written by people who have something to promote (their blog, startup or established company). But they also have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we like to tap into that knowledge. Our way of being transparent is with the byline, where you can see that the author works for a health insurance seller. So long as the content is helpful and not biased, and so long as we’re transparent with the byline, we think these types of posts can be useful to readers. Hope that helps explain! Cheers — Alexis

      • Deadhedge

        If I thought the byline was being “transparent”, I wouldn’t have written my comment. Promotional material being disguised as blog posts was a controversey about a year or two ago. I thought that most addressed by clearly indicating the promotional material. Affiliate marketers tend to clearly state that they are affiliate marketers at the beginning of the post. Why don’t you have a clear disclaimer? A byline shares the name and is not a method of transparency. No one minds reading promotional content as long as they know in advance.

  • http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com/healthcare.aspx Carsonkelly

    healthcare cost and insurance coverage are the two biggest challenges (and fears) of most people I talk with who are independently employed. The tips in the article are helpful (thanks) and I don’t think its biased advice since they offer plans from a wide variety of sources.

  • Montana health insurance

    These are the best tips you can have for shopping for health insurance. It’s scary to go in alone, but doing some online searches, and talking with your doctor AND even your employer, can help you out alot.

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