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8 Ways to Get Health Insurance When You're Self-Employed Whether you leave a 9-5 job or start your career as an entrepreneur, it's critical to understand your rights and options for getting coverage for you and your family.

By Laura D. Adams

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's a lot to love about being self-employed, including flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere. But a major downside is having to foot your entire health insurance bill. However, with a surge in self-employment in recent years — 57 million Americans said they did some form of freelance work in 2019 — it's becoming easier to find health coverage as a solo worker.

Here are eight options to find affordable health insurance when you work for yourself.

1. Join a spouse or partner's health plan

If your spouse or partner has health insurance through an employer, you may be able to join their plan. First, determine how much coverage you'd receive, whether the employer subsidizes a portion of the cost, and how much you'd have to pay per month. This option may be the most affordable because group insurance generally costs less than individual coverage.

2. Stay on your parents' health plan

The Affordable Care Act made it possible to remain on a parent's health plan until 26 years of age, and in some states, the age limit is higher. However, once you hit the age cutoff, you'll have to find another health insurance option.

Related: 5 Reasons Why the Individual Health Insurance Market is on Fire

3. Enroll in a federal or state marketplace health plan

Consumers can also shop for a plan on the health insurance marketplace thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Premiums get determined by your location, family size, income, tobacco use (in most states) and age.

In 2021, the average cost of a marketplace plan for a 40 year old is $495 per month — but you may qualify for a subsidy that lowers the price. Head to Healthcare.gov to enroll unless you live in a state with its own health insurance exchange. Open enrollment runs from November 1 to December 15 each year for coverage that begins on January 1 of the following year.

4. Consider a high-deductible health plan (HDHP)

A high-deductible health plan (HDHP) is a health policy with a higher-than-normal deductible and lower monthly premium. Your out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductible, copayments, and coinsurance, get capped at $7,000 per year for individuals and $14,000 for families.

When you have an HDHP that you purchase or get through an employer, you're typically eligible to contribute to a health savings account (HSA). You can use HSA funds to pay qualified medical, dental, and vision care expenses on a tax-free basis. There's no spending deadline, and if you still have an HSA balance after your 65th birthday, you can use it in retirement.

Just remember that an HDHP may be a good option if you're relatively healthy, but it could end up costing you more than a regular plan if you become sick and have high medical bills.

5. Get short-term health insurance

A short-term health plan provides temporary coverage if you missed the deadline to enroll in another health plan and don't qualify for a federal or state special enrollment period. It usually comes with lower premiums; however, it doesn't have to meet ACA standards, which means it may not cover pre-existing health conditions and may cap benefits.

Only consider purchasing a short-term health plan if you're in a pinch, such as needing coverage between jobs. Be sure to replace it with an ACA-qualified plan through an employer or health marketplace as soon as possible.

Related: How to Choose Health Insurance for Small Businesses

6. Enroll in Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Medicaid and CHIP are state-operated programs that provide free or low-cost health insurance. Eligibility depends on your income, family size, and the state where you live. You can find out you qualify for Medicaid and CHIP when applying for coverage through the federal or state health insurance exchanges. These programs don't have set open enrollment periods so that coverage can begin any time of year.

7. Get COBRA continuation health coverage

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives you the option to continue group employer-sponsored health insurance after you leave a job for at least 18 months. While COBRA coverage is expensive, it could be the best option if you've recently become unemployed or self-employed and need interim coverage.

8. Find health insurance through a trade organization

If you're part of an organization, such as a union, alumni association, retirement group, or professional association, ask whether they offer group health insurance. Some trade groups share the cost of medical insurance the same way as an employer. For instance, the Freelancers Union, AARP, Small Business Service Bureau, and Writers Guild of America may help connect you to a group health insurance plan.

Laura D. Adams

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Award-Winning Financial Author, Podcaster & Spokesperson

Laura Adams, MBA, is one of the nation's leading personal finance and small business authorities. She's an award-winning author, speaker and host of the top-rated 'Money Girl' podcast since 2008. Laura is an on-camera financial spokesperson, and her expert advice is frequently quoted in the media.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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