Friday, February 15, 2008

Freelancer's Health Insurance-- A Dream Deferred

The Times posted an article today, Friday's Links: Health Insurance for the Self Employed, a prescient post for many of the 47 million Americans without health insurance.

Health insurance is obscenely expensive, and for many people, from grad students to waitresses to freelancers, it is beyond reach. However, second to saving for retirement, I think it is absolutely essential to have. One unfortunate incident in a taxi, a few weeks in the hospital, and suddenly you have medical bills to rival your doctor's student loans. But how to pay for it?

The article has some links, but more importantly there are commenters who run through their own experiences with buying health insurance, and the piece becomes a conversation. For people in the restaurant/bar industry in NYC, the Healthy New York website is great, because most people in the service industry meet the income requirements. Also, they assign you an actual person (oftentimes in libraries or certain street corners you'll see people from Healthy New York-- get them to sign you up!), so filling out the forms isn't so bad. For a few years I had my health insurance through them and it was great (and free!!) A lot of states have a version of state health insurance, not just New York, check out and State Coverages Initiatives to see what's available in your state. Even if all you can get is private health insurance, and the only affordable thing is the high deductable. Take it. So it costs a couple hundred dollars a year to see a doctor, really what you're protecting yourself from is a financial wipeout. Which brings me to my next point.

Just because you don't work nine to five, you don't go to the doctor, and you don't have prescriptions or serious health care problems-- it doesn't mean you shouldn't protect yourself from financial ruin. Because from a financial perspective, that's exactly what not having health insurance is, a high risk for financial ruin should you ever get into an accident or have serious health issues. Which is, like, everybody once in their lifetime.

    photo by adesigna via flickr, and PS-- anyone with a pre-existing health problem should ignore this post; health insurance is a health necessity more than a financial bottom line for you.


English Major said...

My boyfriend, a freelancer in TV production, gets his health insurance through the Freelancer's Guild. It is not cheap, but it still a) protects him from catastrophic expenses in the event of a real medical emergency, and b) probably evens out in the end, considering that ADD medication is really, REALLY expensive. So with those things taken into consideration, it's actually pretty affordable.

Nevertheless, his gross income is a lot bigger than mine, but when you consider how much he pays for insurance and that I get mine all-but-free through my employer...the gap is considerably shrunken.

PiggyBankBlues said...

great point-- the freelancer's union is excellent, or any kind of worker's group.

insurance definitely becomes a numbers game when balancing out of pocket costs and expenses for things like medicine or any kind of regular medical expenses.

you are really lucky to have all-but-free insurance through you employer!

Ms. M&P said...

I get really worked up over access to health insurance. I strongly believe that everyone has a right to health care, and I find it infuriating that people can get priced out of health care in our country.

That said, I appreciate this post from practical standpoint. I can rant all I want about how people have a right to care, but that doesn't change the situation. My sister is an artist right out of college so she's in the market you're talking about. Trying to buy in the private market is pricey and unpredictable, so finding coverage through state initiatives, unions, or any group market is the best bet.

You know, I've heard stories of people getting married or staying in marriages because their spouse has insurance. It sounds almost comical, but if you have a pre-existing condition and few prospects of getting in a group market, it can actually be your best bet for getting health care. UNBELIEVABLE.

PiggyBankBlues said...

ditto, ditto and ditto...

Jerry said...

I am with all of you on this regarding health insurance. If you do freelance in any way, it's a nightmare trying to find some way to have security in terms of your health coverage. I do what I can with diet and exercise but God forbid I get a disease. I have insurance now but it hasn't always been the case and I really feel for those who don't have access to it now. I hope this next administration leads to changes on that front.