Reader Q&A: Health Insurance for Freelance Writers

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Wade Finnegan asks:

How do freelance writers afford health insurance? Are there group plans for freelancers?

I’ll be honest, the high cost of health insurance here in the States is one of several reasons why I keep a full-time corporate job in addition to my freelance writing business. While some freelancers have the luxury of getting insurance through a spouse, the rest are left to make some tough decisions.

Plenty of freelancers opt for high-deductible plans that really only cover them when things turn catastrophic.  Going this route can make monthly premiums manageable, but it’s not terribly helpful or reassuring.

There actually are some group plans available if you’re affiliated with the right organizations and you’re lucky enough to live in the right state.

The Freelancers Union offers some group health, dental, disability and life insurance plans. They even offer 401(k) retirement options for members. The details vary by state, though. For instance, a group health plan is not available for me in Indiana at all, and dental premiums in my state would run me more than $50 per month. That’s way more than the cost of 2 regular check-ups and x-rays if you do the math. So if I was shopping, I’d be inclined to just go without unless I was planning some major dental work. And even then, “major services are not covered for the first 12 months you are enrolled.”

Addy Dugdale (who’s not from the U.S., by the way) wrote an interesting article for Fast Company almost two years ago now about freelance health insurance. In it she interviews five different freelancers in America about the state of health care for the self-employed, each freelancer with a different perspective. So far, things haven’t changed a whole lot on the health care front, and the article is still relevant on so many levels.

It’s a frustrating situation for a lot of freelance writers, and it’s one more reason why setting the right fees for our work is so important.

If you’re a freelancer, how do you handle the health insurance conundrum?

About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a technical marketing writer by day and a freelance copywriter by night. And, no, she's not related to Dr. Seuss.
  • Wade Finnegan

    Emily, thanks for taking my question. It is the biggest issue not allowing me to write full-time. I believe someone has the answer and hopefully one of your readers can shed some light on the subject. Thanks again!

    • Emily Suess

      I’m glad to throw it out there so others can weigh in. It’s a subject that’s really important for the self-employed. Thanks for your submission.

  • Stacia

    Not sure I count myself as a freelancer (how about a wannabe freelancer?) but I’m on the group plan my husband has through his employer. I don’t know how else I could afford it, honestly.

    • Emily Suess

      It’s tough. I’m pretty sure health insurance costs would break me financially if I was buying it on my own. Consider those who get premium quotes for an additional spouse or for children, and I’m guessing they run into the arms of the corporations pretty damn quickly.

      Personally, I think it says a lot about how much we (Americans, collectively) value independent workers and consultants who dare to pursue their own American dream.

  • Mahesh Raj Mohan

    I was just thinking about this today.  I pay for private insurance (I got help from a broker:  Century Benefits  Mine is affordable, but high-deductible, although it does give some reasonable co-pays.  It would be much nicer to have insurance like I used to as a member of the salaried class, but then some employers have the option of cutting healthcare, too (my former company did).  It’s not a great situation, but at least I’m covered.

    • Emily Suess

      Thanks for sharing the link. It’s a helpful place to start.

      You’re right about corporate health insurance benefits taking hits too. They aren’t what they used to be even 10 years ago. (I remember paying a $1 a month premium when I first started working in 1999!) 

      • Mahesh Raj Mohan

        $1?!  That’s amazing!

        • Emily Suess

          No kidding! I was so very, very young at the time that I didn’t really get how good it was. But all my coworkers raved about the insurance, and people in that small town tried every way they could to get a job there.

          And, of course, now I know how great it was.

  • Natalia Sylvester

    Like Mahesh, I pay for a private health insurance plan for me and my husband (who is currently a full-time student). It’s not cheap but it’s worth it to me for the peace of mind. We have a reasonable deductible and $15 co-pay for check-ups, etc. I found it through, and have had it for about 2 years now. It works for us for now, but I know as we get older it’ll only get more expensive, so I’m hoping we’ll have more options in years to come, whether it’s through my husband’s future employer once he graduates or through some miracle/new US healthcare policies, etc. 

    • Emily Suess

      Thanks for sharing, Natalia! Hopefully Wade and other freelancers wondering how to handle health insurance issues will find your feedback helpful. I know I’m definitely taking notes in case I ever decide to break out and go full-time.

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