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7 Health insurance options for freelancers and gig workers

The freelance and gig economy has expanded rapidly in recent years. According to one study, earnings from freelance and short-term contract work grew 33% in 2020 alone. 

There are plenty of perks to working outside the traditional 9-to-5 job. For example, driving for Lyft or delivering for DoorDash may offer flexibility in hours. Not to mention, freelance and gig workers often report greater independence and job variety.

But these types of roles often lack the benefits tied to working for a company. That means contract workers and freelancers often need to find their own health insurance.

If you’re in that situation, here are some places to find a plan that fits your needs.

1. Shop the ACA private insurance marketplace

One of the reasons Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to help people find affordable health insurance plans.

There is an annual sign-up period called “open enrollment.” This is a time that anyone can purchase a plan in one of the government-run ACA marketplaces.

Open enrollment periods typically begin in November and end mid-December. Coverage begins in January of the following year. So, if you need insurance starting January 1, 2022, you would look for and purchase a plan in 2021.

If you miss the open enrollment period, you may still be able to buy insurance. You’d need to have a “qualifying event.” This is a change in circumstances like getting married, divorced, or losing employer-based insurance.

Some people may qualify for tax credits to help them pay for their insurance plans.

2. Buy directly from a private insurer 

If you’re a high-earner, you may not qualify for ACA subsidies. But you can still buy plans directly from insurance carriers. You may find options with a better price and coverage.

3. Be a ‘plus-one’ on a spouse or domestic partner’s plan

Some companies allow partners and spouses of their employees to get coverage through employer-based plans. Employer-based plans are often cheaper than individual plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act.

Depending on the plan, you may not need to be legally married to qualify for coverage as a domestic partner. So, if your spouse or domestic partner is covered through a plan, check with their insurer to see if you can add yourself.

4. Extend coverage through COBRA

Did you recently lose your job or have your hours cut? Many health insurance plans offer the option to extend your job-based insurance coverage for a time.

These plans may cost more. However, those extra costs may be offset by the money you save on things like transportation or professional attire.

Often those eligible for COBRA are also eligible to purchase a personal plan on Affordable Care Act marketplaces outside of the open enrollment period. That’s because losing a job is often considered a qualifying event.

5. Join a temporary agency

Some people decide to find job assignments through staffing agencies.  This is particularly common in the design and tech industries. These staffing agencies often offer options for purchasing insurance coverage to their contract employees.

6. Access group insurance through professional associations

Are you a member of a professional association or trade group? If so, you may be able to get onto a group insurance plan through them. Group insurance allows members to join together and access insurance plans that could be less expensive than an individual plan.

7. Bridge the gap with short-term insurance

Did you miss the open enrollment deadline for an Affordable Care Act plan? Don’t qualify for special enrollment? Short-term plans may be a good, temporary coverage option until the next enrollment period.

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