Best Short-Term Health Insurance for Freelancers
What’s Covered and How Does It Work?
Freelancing is a great way to balance work with a healthy lifestyle. There were 57 million freelancers in the U.S. in 2019, of them, 28% of freelance workers were full time. Although there are many advantages to being a freelancer, one drawback is the lack of access to an employer-sponsored health plan. If you are a freelance worker or a self-employed person, there are several health insurance options to consider. One option to consider is a short term health insurance plan, here is what you need to know so you can decide if this is a good choice for you or not.
How Does Short Term Health Insurance Work?
Short-term health insurance also referred to as “limited-duration” insurance is a form of coverage meant to insure people for limited periods. It is a temporary and basic medical insurance policy intended for a medical emergency and not every day medical care or prevention. Short-term health insurance plans are not ACA-compliant.
Why Freelancers Choose Short-Term Health Over Other Plans
Below are a few reasons why freelancers opt for short-term healthcare over other options:
- If you make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to spend a lot of money on health insurance, short term health insurance is a less expensive health care option and is better than going uninsured.
- If you want health insurance, but missed the open enrollment period and have not had a qualifying life event allowing you to purchase out of the open enrollment period.
- As an alternative to ACA insurance options. Although freelancers can qualify for health insurance through the marketplace, the cost of the ACA compliant marketplace insurance is more expensive; Before 2019, there were penalties for choosing non-ACA-compliant health plans. As of 2019, there is no federal health insurance penalty when insuring yourself on a short-term health insurance plan.
Some States have fees for non-ACA-compliant health plans. Be sure and check if your State is one of them.
Average Price of a Short-Term Health Plan
Short-term health insurance plans cost 1/3 to 1/5 the price of ACA plans. The price difference depends on whether or not you qualify for a subsidy. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates that the cost of coverage for short term health insurance plans are 20% less than the Bronze coverage offered by the ACA.
For example, in a KFF report, the average cost of health insurance on an ACA marketplace plan (Bronze form) ranged from $264 to $469 per month depending on the State, compared to the cost for a short term health plan starting as low as $25-$141 a month .
Age also plays a role in the premiums for Short-term health plans. For example, eHealth reported that 18-24-year-olds paid an average of $63 a month, while 45-54-year-olds paid an average of $170.
Short-Term Health Insurance Basics
Unlike ACA marketplace health insurance plans which must cover 10 essential health benefits, short term health insurance plans do not and provide minimal coverage. Short term health plans are not available in all states. Where offered, many do not provide coverage for:
- Prescription drugs & Immunizations
- Preventative care
- Mental health and substance abuse
- Pregnancy or Prenatal and maternity care
Short-Term Health Insurance vs. Marketplace Coverage
In addition to reduced coverage, there are other things to consider before you choose a plan.
- If you have a pre-existing condition, unlike marketplace coverage, short-term health insurance does not have to cover you.
- You may have to go through a medical exam if your existing plan expires. You may be denied coverage for any medical issues that show up as a result.
- These plans may have higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for you to pay
- If you have a plan that lasts less than a year, each time you extend or change your plan the deductible can reset. This is a disadvantage over an annual marketplace plan.
- Short-term plans have annual or lifetime policy limits and caps on coverage.
One advantage of the short term health coverage is the price. These savings are only possible if you do not run into unexpected medical situations, or if you are generally healthy and do not use prescriptions regularly. Medical debt is a major problem and cause of bankruptcy, be sure and choose your health coverage carefully.
How to Find the Best Short-Term Health Insurance Policy
Saving money as a freelancer is important, but making sure you understand what you are paying for will help you make the right choice. Aside from comparing coverages offered, here are some tips help you find the best short-term health policy.
- Get quotes from several short-term health plan providers so you can compare various options. When possible, speak to a licensed insurance representative or assistant who can offer you some insight into the options you are getting.
- Ask if there is an application fee.
- Find out how extensions work, or if there is any penalty for canceling before the end of a term.
- Is there a waiting period before coverage kicks in?
- Ask about the lifetime and/or policy maximum, deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and dollar limits.
- Ask about the conditions for access to service, do you have to use their network? Where can you get service from?
- Check the financial stability rating of the insurance company
How Long Can You Be Insured on a Short-Term Health Insurance Policy?
You may purchase a short-term health insurance plan that lasts up to 12 months. You may also be offered the option to extend the plan. Different insurers will offer different options, check locally to understand the details and conditions for your plan.
Upwork. "Sixth annual “Freelancing in America” study finds that more people than ever see freelancing as a long-term career path." Accessed Feb. 28, 2020
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Table 9. Employed contingent and noncontingent workers and those with alternative and traditional work arrangements by health insurance coverage and eligibility for employer-provided pension or retirement plans, May 2017." Accessed Feb. 28, 2020
Kaiser Family Foundation. "Understanding Short-Term Limited Duration Health Insurance." Accessed Feb. 29, 2020.
Kaiser Family Foundation. "Why Do Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Have Lower Premiums Than Plans That Comply with the ACA?" Accessed Feb. 28, 2020
Healthcare.gov. "The Fee for Not Having Health Insurance." Accessed Feb. 29. 2020
Kaiser Family Foundation. "Analysis: Most Short-Term Health Plans Don’t Cover Drug Treatment or Prescription Drugs, and None Cover Maternity Care." Accessed Feb. 29, 2020
Kaiser Family Foundation. "ACA Open Enrollment: For Consumers Considering Short-Term Policies." Accessed Feb. 29, 2020