February 28, 2009
Not an employee? Dealing with the health insurance conundrum
I was giving an interview on freelancing this week, when the reporter stopped me and said, "I have a tip for people who want to freelance: Make sure you marry someone with good health insurance."
People who aren't traditional full-time employees get this advice a lot. And not just freelancers, but part-timers, contractors, temps, and full-timers whose employers don't offer insurance benefits in the first place. And this "you'd better marry for medical coverage" line never fails to annoy us.
Single Shot columnist Diane Mapes wrote in the Seattle P-I this past week about the high rate of people who hasten their nuptials because one person needs the health insurance. As Mapes reports, of those couple who legally can marry, the need for health coverage accounted for 7 percent of knot-tying in 2007.
I'm with Mapes, who says in her column:
"I love working; I love earning my own keep. But what I don't love is that good health care is so out of reach for a certain segment of society that it's making people consider all sorts of wacky schemes to 'get some.'"
Unless you work at a company that picks up a majority of your healthcare tab, you're probably all too familiar with the nightmare of trying to finance your own healthcare premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs.
The options aren't pretty:
Go with the COBRA coverage you're offered through your former employer and you pay through the nose. Even with the 9-month, 65-percent subsidy Obama's stimulus package gives you if you're freshly laid off, you still might find COBRA premiums out of reach. (To do the math, see this COBRA subsidy calculator.)
Or, buy your own insurance through a site like eHealthInsurance, a reputable insurance agent, or a professional association and you're lucky if you can afford a plan with a $2,500 deductible.
Since I'm self-employed and not married or shacked up, I buy my own plan. And try not to throw things at the wall whenever my bills and claim statements arrive. I've found that working with an insurance agent who can research and weigh the various plans available to me is helpful. Just last week, my agent helped me save $1,500 a year by suggesting a new plan that was more suited to my needs.
How about you? If you've recently been laid off or never had an employer's or a partner's insurance plan to begin with, what are you doing for healthcare coverage? Or, like so many other Americans, are you doing without and crossing your fingers?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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