Gig Worker’s Guide to Dental/Health Insurance
When you’re a freelancer, you need dental and health insurance just like your fellow nine-to-fivers, but without a set paycheck, you might not feel super confident that you can pay for dental and/or health insurance.
Here’s how to find dental/health insurance if you’re a part of the gig economy.
What is the Gig Economy?
When you’re a part of the gig economy, you complete contract work. In other words, you’re paid to execute a task on behalf of a company — but you’re not an employee at that company. You might find a job using a gig economy app like Uber or TaskRabbit, which makes it easier than ever to connect companies to gig workers. The gig economy has exploded, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.6 million gig economy workers work in the United states and make up a full 1% of the U.S. workforce.
What Gig Workers Can Do to Get Dental and Health Insurance
So, how can you get dental and health insurance as a gig worker? Here are a few of your options.
Option 1: Self-Employed Health Insurance
Self-employed health insurance, or individual health insurance, is a great answer for gig workers. How is it different from group health insurance that you would get from an employer? It’s different because you’re generally the only person included in the plan. In addition, you usually need to buy it during an open enrollment period.
You can search for self-employed insurance on the Marketplace, which is shorthand for the Health Insurance Marketplace, a shopping and enrollment service for medical insurance created by the Affordable Care Act, which the federal government runs.
Option 2: Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term health insurance can be a great option if you’re a gig worker — only if you need limited coverage for a short period of time. Short-term health insurance, also called short-term, limited-duration insurance, refers to health insurance plans with a limited duration, typically several months to a year. You can get the essentials and pay less for major medical coverage every month.
Option 3: Critical Illness Insurance
Let’s say you encounter a serious medical problem that carries a $100,000 bill. Getting this type of bill can drain your savings or force you to file for bankruptcy. Critical illness insurance can fill the gaps in your health insurance.
Critical illness insurance is supplemental insurance coverage that pays a one-time lump-sum benefit if you have a covered illness. It can cover treatment for:
- Heart attacks
- Other expensive conditions
Critical illness insurance can also pay for deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, travel expenses and your regular bills.
Option 4: Join Your Spouse or Domestic Partner's Plan
You may be able to join a group plan if your spouse works for an employer. An employer-based plan may also save you money, because it may charge a lower premium than an individual plan.
Not legally married to your partner? As long as you’re not married to anyone else, you may qualify as a domestic partner if you share the same home and live a domestic life together.
Option 5: COBRA Coverage
Most health insurance plans offer the option to convert your existing group plan into an individual plan if you leave your job to venture out as a gig worker. Your plan provider can cover the details of your eligibility for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage. Specifically, when you leave a company where you had a health care policy, you can extend your coverage up to 18 months after you leave.
Note that if you’re leaving your job, you also may qualify for the special enrollment period. Check to see whether you qualify for the special enrollment period so you can save money. COBRA coverage buys you more time to find a plan outside of your employer and staying on employer plans often offer you more coverage compared to individual plans.
Option 6: Professional Associations
Does your profession have associations? If you become a member of a self-employed worker or independent worker association, you may be able to get group insurance. One example is the Freelancers Union, which offers a health insurance plan. You can also get supplemental medical plans through these unions, including dental coverage and life insurance. The union's website offers a guide to choosing the right plan tailored to your needs.
How to Get The Best Plan for YOU
You can tap into a number of strategies to find the most affordable health insurance policy for you. It takes a bit of time to evaluate the right health insurance for you. Your individual situation and needs are important factors in figuring out which plan works best for you. Here are the steps you can undertake to search for health and dental insurance as a gig worker:
Step 1: Don’t consider going without insurance.Going without insurance is not a smart choice, particularly when it comes to health and dental insurance. You want to do comprehensive research to determine which health care option works for your income and situation.
Don’t wait until you have an emergency, then realize you’re in a pickle.
It’s possible to experience intense highs and intense lows when you’re a gig worker. Take some time to think through your options while you have extra time. You don’t want to make a hasty decision, then be stuck with that decision until the next open enrollment period. Think through your options.
Step 2: Give yourself some time to make the right choice.
Step 3: Compare costs.When comparing plans, consider the costs and also look at the big picture. Again, don’t rush right in. Ask yourself the following:
- What is the plan premium? This is the amount you pay each month for coverage.
- Are you eligible for a premium tax credit? How does that impact what you’ll pay for an ACA plan compared to a short-term plan?
- What is the annual plan deductible? A higher deductible results in a lower premium and vice versa. Get really clear about the amount you must pay out of pocket for healthcare before your benefits kick in.
- What is the out-of-pocket maximum, or the limit on what must pay out of pocket for the year?
Understand what you can afford each month and what you can afford to pay out-of-pocket if you need to use your insurance benefits.
Pay careful attention to the coinsurance and copay amounts among all the plans you’re considering. The coinsurance percentage is how you and the insurance policy split the cost of care. A copay is a fixed amount for a covered service, paid by you to the provider of service before receiving that particular service.
Step 4: Sign up for a plan.
The Affordable Care Act set up marketplaces for private health plans in all parts of the country. The options vary depending on where you live. The website healthcare.gov is a good first stop to look for options in your area. More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia run their own marketplaces. You can also use a private company certified by the government to help you pick a plan.
Step 5: Consider DentalPlans.com if you need a dental plan.
Medical research increasingly indicates there is a link between poor dental hygiene and chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, among other serious conditions. So do not forget about dental care when you’re evaluating plans.
Traditional dental insurance doesn't meet everyone’s needs. DentalPlans.com offers dental savings plans, which are an affordable alternative to traditional dental insurance. You pay one annual fee and get access to reduced rates of 10-60% off at more than 140,000 dentists nationwide all year long. You can get the quality care you deserve at a price you can afford.
Additionally, many dental savings plans also offer discounts on vision, hearing, and chiropractic care, as well as prescription drugs and telehealth services.
Get Clear About Your Needs and Choose the Right Option
Gig workers might sometimes face challenges that nine-to-five workers don’t encounter — and one of those challenges is tapping into health and dental insurance. Carefully work through your options, consider all the costs, angles and advantages and pick the right option for you.
If you need a dental plan, you can get access to significantly reduced rates offered by more than 140,000 dentists nationwide.
Are you ready to start saving on your dental care? Compare plans online here. Just type in your zip code and get started now.
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