By Michael Cahill
The only worry freelance writers should have is finishing their pieces by deadline. Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. One of the biggest causers of stress for the self-employed writer is getting health insurance. Unlike their less independent counterparts, freelance writers don’t get the benefit of a plan provided by their employer or access to an affordable group health insurance rate.
Enter the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The big changes that the ACA is making to the American healthcare system look to make life a bit easier for freelance writers seeking health insurance. The secret to tapping into these changes is of course knowing about them. That is why this guide has been put together, so let’s dive in.
From Bronze To Platinum
At the center of the ACA are the online health insurance marketplaces. If you live in one of the 36 states where the federal government is running the marketplace, you’ll need to log on to HealthCare.gov to shop for ACA plans. The other 14 states chose to operate their own health insurance marketplace, so if you live in one of them you’ll need to visit your state specific health insurance marketplace. Visit this page from the Kaiser Family Foundation to see what your state decided to do.
Regardless of whether it’s the federal or a state marketplace, you’ll find that health insurance plans sold at the marketplace fall into four different groups: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. As you climb up to the Gold and Platinum levels, the cost of your premium will rise, however it is not without its benefits. From Bronze to Platinum, plans will cover 60%, 70%, 80% and 90% of your total medical costs. The bigger monthly premiums of a Gold or Platinum plan might seem lofty at first, but they can also save you money in the long term.
Which Plan Is Right For You?
Making an informed decision about your plan is the key. Don’t make a choice based on roundabout estimations of how much healthcare you need. Take the time and lookup how much money you have spent on health costs over the past couple years. Are the more expensive years outliers? Did you have a string of illnesses? Do you have a preexisting condition? Are you one of those people who always finds themselves dealing with one medical issue or another? Take these things into account to figure out which plan will be the most cost efficient.
Subsidies Make Life A Bit Easier
So, you still might be wondering where the ‘affordable’ part of this legislation comes in. At the marketplace, health insurance plans are offered with a fairly significant federal health insurance subsidy depending on your annual income. Individuals are eligible for the subsidy as long as they make between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Line. Additionally, there is an income cap on your premiums, so that even if you make near 400% of the poverty line, you won’t pay more than 9.5% of your income for health insurance. These tax credits are sure to make a big difference. To figure out how much your subsidy will be, I’d recommend using this handy calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Essential Health Benefits Improve Coverage All Around
The essential health benefits are ten different categories of medical services that every plan will have to provide. Whether it is a low premium or high premium plan, on or off the marketplace, every plan needs to cover these things. The key thing to know is that these are categories of medical services. In other words, specific medical services are not actually outlined by the ACA. Instead, states will decide for themselves what services fall under these categories. Check out the full list of benefits at the glossary of healthcare.gov here.
One Less Pain To Deal With
Now freelance writers can think a little bit more about their work, and less about their lack of benefits. While this guide should get you going, start getting an appetite for information. The more you know the better. Additionally, a licensed broker is a great person to consult with when you are trying to figure out the right plan. Consider yourself one step closer to getting affordable health insurance.
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