Self-employed or a freelancer? Responsible for buying your own health insurance? Odds are you’re confused about what’s going on with your health insurance for 2018.
Are there still tax credits (aka subsidies) to lower my health insurance premiums? Will there be health plans available where I live and will I be fined if I don’t enroll?
As a creative professional, some of these mixed messages can be scary, because the ACA (aka Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”) for the first time ever attempted to protect your access to health insurance outside of a traditional employer plan. You can quit your job and strike out on your own knowing nobody can deny you health coverage because you’re diabetic or a woman in her mid-30’s who might get pregnant. If you’re grappling with your own start-up costs, you have tax credits that are “advanced” to lower your health insurance premiums while you get up-and-running.
As you consider health insurance options for 2018, here’s what you need to know:
1. Don’t procrastinate
The Open Enrollment Period is almost over, and ends December 15, 2017 (in most states). Buying insurance is often less expensive than the penalty itself. If you don’t buy health insurance this year, the government will fine you—last year’s fine was either $695 per person ($347.50 per child under 18) or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater (so enroll in health insurance by December 15 to avoid this fine!).
2. Get the right plan—and check your options
Picking the right plan is confusing. For everyone. “Is there even a ‘right’ plan for me?!” We consistently hear how challenging it can be to navigate health insurance on their own. There are countless disclaimers and acronyms (HMOs, PPOs, EPOs, APTCs, MAGI and many more) standing in your way, but no easy list to simply read to see what the plan covers and what it doesn’t, find out which doctors you can visit in each plan, or see how much your prescriptions will cost. We built Stride to solve every single one of these challenges in a single product to provide the guidance individuals and families need to succeed.
3. The lowest premium is not always the cheapest plan
It’s far too often assumed that the lowest premium plan is the cheapest health coverage option. For many people — like those who have frequent doctor visits, complicated medical conditions, or expensive prescription drugs — out of pocket costs can add up quickly, so it’s often more affordable to pay a higher premium for a plan that provides more coverage. Stride estimates each individual’s total cost outlay in every plan — premium cost plus out-of-pocket health care costs over the entire next year — so freelancers can make an informed decision and select the right plan.
4. Don’t assume coverage is unaffordable
Take the time to see if you can get a tax credit to pay for some of it. Too many people fail to account for all of their business deductions when they check to see if they qualify for the tax credits that lower premium costs. You can actually reduce your taxable income by carefully tracking business expenses throughout the year, and then use that income to calculate your subsidy eligibility during Open Enrollment. Basically, the lower your taxable income the higher subsidy you are potentially eligible for. Taking the time to correctly estimate your income might mean thousands in annual savings or the chance to buy-up to a better plan for your family.
Going without coverage altogether — millions of Americans still do it — puts your health at risk and your family’s financial security in jeopardy. Figure out what you’re able to afford should something go wrong, and buy enough coverage to keep yourself right-side-up should you end up in an emergency.
5. It’s confusing—so Stride is here to help
Open Enrollment can be really confusing and you will have questions. Is the government still helping pay for coverage? What plan best fits my needs? Remember, at Stride Health we pride ourselves on getting you to your right plan and enrolling you in less than 10 minutes. We stick around all year long to deal with any insurance hassles, help you discover the free care that comes in your plan, and make sure you don’t get hit with any big bills by going outside of your network.
A few things might surprise you this year:
1. You have just 2 weeks left to enroll for all of 2018
2. Most premiums are higher this year, but so are tax credits to lower your premiums
3. More people will get free health insurance than ever before
Update*: we partnered with HoneyBook | Rising Tide to help you find a plan with Stride in less than 10 minutes. The best part? There’s no cost to you for using Stride :).
*HoneyBook | Rising Tide does NOT receive compensation in any way from promoting Stride or from any health insurance plans resulting from this blog post. We love that Stride shares our commitment to support creatives in the pursuit of a sustainable livelihood and know how important it is to take care of yourself and the ones you love, so we wanted to bring them to you.