February 20, 2011
Self-employed? How to get 'group of one' health insurance
Last fall, the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) delivered the exciting news that freelancers, independent contractors, and sole proprietors in our state could now qualify for group health insurance plans by declaring themselves a "group of one."
[Photo by ernstl]
If you work for yourself, you know that self-insuring is no picnic. Individual insurance offerings are often pricy, and coverage is lean at best. Group coverage, however, is known for its better and more comprehensive benefits -- essentially giving consumers more bang for their medical buck. What's more, group plans don't require a health screening -- as in, no infinite exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
As I mentioned in late 2010, thanks to a new state law, solo workers who've run their business for the past 12 months and have made at least 75 percent of their income from it qualify for such group coverage. Farmers who make at least 51 percent of their income from their business also qualify.
A number of you have asked me how to find these magical "group of one" plans. The OIC kindly created two online search tools that can help:
Small Employer Plan search. Simply type in your zip code here and behold the list of insurance providers who offer plans to groups of one. Note that a few self-employed folks who've begun looking into such health plans have told me they were required to fill out a form to request a quote; the rates won't simply appear on this search tool or the insurance provider's website.
Insurance Agent or Agency search. If, like me, you would rather not wade through a stack of insurance quotes and spend hours comparison shopping, you may want to enlist an insurance agent or a broker to do it for you. Getting a recommendation from a fellow freelancer or sole proprietor you trust is always a good bet. Failing that, you can use this tool to search for an agent registered with the state OIC.
Since this change in state insurance regulations is so new, I haven't heard from many people taking advantage of these small group plans yet. If you're gone through the process of researching these plans or have gone ahead and signed up for one, I -- and I'm guessing, a number of readers of this blog -- would love to hear what you've found. Is your new small group insurance coverage indeed far superior to the individual plan you previously had? Any big downsides we should know about?
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.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
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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