As a freelancer, you enjoy the freedom, flexibility and creativity that self-employment brings. You might, however, also miss benefits like matching retirement funds, paid vacation and insurance coverage. Instead of taking your chances and hoping you don’t get sick, compile the necessary paperwork and discover ways you can find individual health insurance as a freelancer.
Decide which coverage you need
Even if you’re generally healthy, insurance provides financial protection. Consider purchasing a policy that covers, at the minimum, major medical procedures. Although the deductible will be high, you’ll be covered in case you need surgery or hospital care after an accident. Other coverage options include short term, co-pay, low deductible and riders that cover maternity care, prescription drugs or mental health needs.
Find an insurance provider
After determining the personal health insurance coverage you want, find a company who can meet your needs while also accommodating your budget. If you recently left a job that provided health coverage, consider purchasing COBRA coverage. You’ll pay the full premium for up to 18 months, which gives you time to find an individual policy.
Several organizations exist primarily to assist the freelance community. Check out Freelancers Union, the National Association for the Self-Employed, the National Writers Union or your local Chamber of Commerce chapter.
If you are new to freelancing and have a low income, apply for medical coverage through the Department of Welfare. You need to provide proof of income, residency and household size in order to qualify.
Compile the paperwork
When you’re ready to apply for a policy, you’ll need several important documents and additional information:
- Social Security card and current picture identification
- Proof of prior health insurance coverage
- Primary care physician’s name, address, telephone number and the date and purpose of your most recent visit
- Medical history including the dates and reasons for any hospitalizations
- List of prescription medications you take regularly
- Debit or credit card information to pay for the first month’s premium
- Other paperwork as required by your insurance carrier
Keep good records
In addition to the paperwork required for the application, keep thorough medical expense records. Because you work as a freelancer, you can deduct your health insurance premiums and possibly other medical-related expenses. You need good records, though, to prove you really do work and aren’t just pursuing a hobby from home. Start by keeping receipts of each month’s premium payment. In addition, save receipts from appointment co-pays, dental visits, eye exams and medications.
To prove you are self-employed, keep accurate business records. Save invoices, expense receipts, proof of income including copies of checks and a business diary that shows your client meetings, project deadlines and work proposals. Store these and other important documents in an organized file. Consult a certified accountant for additional information about your freelance taxes and recordkeeping.
To maximize your health insurance, live a healthy lifestyle. Eat right, exercise and take vitamins. Visit the doctor annually and the dentist biannually for checkups.
Investing in yourself physically saves you money in the long run. Not only will you spend less money on doctor’s visits, but you’ll also miss fewer work days. Purchase insurance as an additional tool to help stay healthy as a self-employed person.