(*Note: This article was written prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Please see the blog post "Freelancers and the Affordable Care Act" for more up-to-date information.)
Health insurance for freelancers and independent contractors can be a difficult issue. It’s hard to leave a 9-5 job when getting affordable health insurance seems like such a pipedream, no matter how much the freelance lifestyle calls to you. But, there are options that the writer (and other at home workers, independent contractors and consultants) should explore.
Here at About.com Freelance Writing, we first talked about health insurance for freelance writers here. The choices presented in that article have had some changes and additional information is now available.
Join a Group
As stated in the previous article, joining a group, such as a guild, opens up some cheaper options in health insurance. Here are some new group options for writers to explore.
The Editorial Freelancers Association offers health insurance plans to its members, including plans specifically for New York City members and options for those nationwide. Dental HMOs and discount programs are also available.
Some other groups that are specifically targeted to the writing/freelancing careers are MediaBistro, which offers insurance plans for as little as $333 per month for individual members, and the Freelancers Union which is a group that is working feverishly on more equitable health insurance solutions for Independent Contractors. You may remember that the Freelancers Union had an issue with a possible drop in coverage last year, and that they recently announced a complete revamping of their health insurance programs. Although this site has received some complaints about their coverage and costs, I’ve always found the Union to be very communicative and eager to answer questions for About.com readers. Writers need to make their health insurance and union decisions based on their own individual needs.
Here’s some new information on group insurance. According to a New York Times article on health insurance for freelancers, some states allow one person who works independently to qualify as a “group.” That means that freelancers in those states may get a group rate without the additional cost of joining a guild or union.
As noted in our original article on health insurance for freelance writers, COBRA is a Federal policy that requires a full time employer to offer health insurance to newly separated employees at their prevailing group rate.
A new development in COBRA coverage is the COBRA subsidy . The COBRA subsidy pays a portion of the employee’s part of COBRA. Therefore, should a writer or editor quit or become separated from a full time job, and choose to go full time freelance, the employee will have to pay a small portion of their COBRA coverage, but the subsidy covers a larger portion of it. This is good, as many newly separated employees find COBRA coverage to be very expensive. The COBRA subsidy is currently scheduled to expire December 31, 2009.
Well, freelancers, that’s the update from our original article on getting health insurance as a freelance writer. Hopefully some of these new developments will help new freelancers to make the transition.