For whatever reason, there hasn’t been a system put into place for freelancers to get affordable health insurance. Historically, freelance photographers in America have had little other choice than to buy health insurance at expensive market rates. With tight schedules, expensive equipment, and a lot of knowledge to keep on top of, we can all agree that camera slingers have just as hard of a job as anyone else and deserve fairly priced health insurance.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) isn’t providing any special health insurance system specifically for freelancers, the overall changes are going to have a big impact on freelancers buying health insurance.
How the Exchange is Organized
The federal health insurance exchange at HealthCare.gov is a popular place for freelancers to buy insurance. A handful of states have chosen to open their own marketplaces. To find out if your state is one of them, take a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s list of states that are operating their own exchanges.
Your best bet to get started on your health insurance journey is to go to HealthCare.gov and look over its health plans. It offers plans designated as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These titles tell you how much a plan’s monthly premium is and the amount of coverage for medical expenses they provide. As you probably could have guessed, Platinum plans come with the highest premiums and Bronze the lowest. However, Platinum plans have the least out-of-pocket expenses, while Bronze plans come with higher co-pays and deductibles.
A Slew of Benefits
Every health plan comes jam-packed with a set of 10 ACA mandated “essential health benefits.” Chronic disease management and pediatric services are a couple examples, but there are many more. While they are called benefits, the essential “health benefits” are actually categories of medical benefits. This means that the actual medical services themselves aren’t defined by the ACA. Instead, states have been given the power to decide which medical services will be considered essential benefits. To see the “benchmark” health insurance plans that each state has based their essential benefits off of click here.
Don’t Worry, the Plans Get Cheaper
If I had to take a wild guess, I would say you’re probably waiting for the part about where you save money with the ACA, and here it is. You will be eligible to receive a federal health insurance subsidy if your annual income is anywhere within the broad range of 100-400 percent of the federal poverty line.
Sadly, the subsidy amount that you will actually get once you apply for health insurance is subject to a number of factors, meaning that I can’t tell you here how much you’re getting. To subdue your curiosity you can get an estimation of your subsidy using the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator.
Don’t Stop Learning and Planning
Before signing up through HealthCare.gov, be sure you know how much you have been spending on healthcare over the past few years. If you don’t have some concrete numbers, how do you really know if the plan is saving you money? You probably keep extensive records about your business – it’s just as important to do the same for your health insurance.
It is also a good idea to continue learning about the Affordable Care Act. It is a big piece of legislation that is sure to keep changing over time. If you are looking for some help on this subject, talk to a licensed insurance broker. It is quite literally their job to know about this. When you think you are a certified ACA master, go forward and buy that plan.
Michael Cahill is the Editor of the Vista Health Solutions blog. He writes about the health care system, health insurance industry, and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealthMike.