Whether you are a part-time or full-time freelancer, the one thing you’ll have to learn to live with is fluctuating finances. In the good times, you have more work than you know what to do with and your bank account is teeming with cash. In the worst of times, clients are few and far between as you grapple with knowing when your next paycheck will come along. Yet, despite the wild swings in your financial circumstances, your expenses continue to roll in unabated. When your bank account is frighteningly low, few expenses will scare you more than healthcare costs especially if you are forced to choose between health and core basics such as food, shelter and clothing. Health insurance for freelancers is a major concern.
Healthcare expenses are already a bankruptcy risk for someone with a steady income. For a freelancer, they can completely throw you off balance. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. All it takes is a bit of planning. Here are a few health insurance for freelancers tips to help you do just that.
1. Use an Urgent Care Clinic
Urgent care clinics often accept a broad range of health insurance for freelancer plans. Their co-pays are much less than ER visits. An urgent care clinic can handle a wide array of non-life-threatening illnesses such as colds and flu, skin rashes, urinary tract infections and bronchitis. Some even have the capacity to treat sprains, strains, fractures and lacerations.
They also stock common prescription drugs at an affordable price. And if you are paying out of pocket, a number of urgent care clinics will offer a discount. That said, visit the clinic’s website before you go since some of them will detail their fees and prices there for your advanced planning.
2. Shop for Prescriptions
You probably already know that pharmacies don’t all charge the same price for any given drug. The cost of a drug can vary significantly even within the same city. You can take advantage of discount programs that help make prescription costs affordable by comparing drug costs between pharmacies.
One such program is GoodRx. It offers discounts on prescription medication from most major pharmacies in the US. A GoodRx coupon can cut the cost by as much as 60 percent. Another helpful program is Prescription Hope which allows participants to pay a flat $50 per month per medication fee for more than 1,500 otherwise prohibitively expensive medication brands. There are income requirements for one to qualify though.
3. Spouse’s Policy
After leaving the corporate world and setting out on their own, many freelancers have simply added themselves to their partner or spouse’s healthcare policy. In certain cases, the health insurance for freelancers is added at no changes to the premium paid. At other times, they will have to contribute additional money to be added.
That being said, latching onto your spouse’s policy isn’t always the financially prudent thing to do. If you’ll be expected to contribute, make sure you compare the cost of being joined to the policy against the cost of self-insurance. Though rare, your spouse’s policy could actually be more expensive.
4. Health Savings Accounts (HSA)
A HSA can take off some of the pressure that comes with a high-deductible plan. Many plans allow you to set aside money in a tax-sheltered HSA. You can then tap into the HSA account to settle medical expenses that fall outside the scope of your plan.
What’s the advantage? If for instance you put away $5,000 a year in the HSA and your tax bracket is 25%, the $5,000 is subtracted from gross income before your tax obligation is calculated. That would see you save $1,250 on your tax bill.
5. Negotiate a Payment Plan
If all else fails and you find yourself battling mounting bills, it may be time to negotiate a payment plan for your health insurance. For starters, some healthcare providers will offer a discount to patients who pay their medical bills in cash. If that doesn’t work, you could discuss modalities of paying a small portion of the bill every month based on your income.
Many providers are reasonable. They know they would be better off being flexible and allowing you to pay in installments rather than insisting on a process that will eventually see them lose hopes of recovering the cash.
Alternatively, you could utilize a specialized healthcare-specific credit card service that will allow you to stagger your payments over a period of 6 months to one year.
If left unplanned, your healthcare costs can spiral out of control and place great strain on your income. By extensively researching your options, you’ll be better prepared to contain your medical expenditure thereby putting your mind at ease.
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Wendy Dessler is a super-connector who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.