Healthcare in the Gig Economy: How Freelancers Can Get Great Care

These six steps will help you get started.

The freelance lifestyle has its advantages, but great healthcare isn't one of them. Independent contractors are often at a disadvantage compared to full-time employees who work for companies offering insurance. Most companies have structures and systems set up to support their staff's healthcare and insurance needs, and freelancers don't have access to those resources.

In the gig economy, your health is key to your success. But freelancers…

  • Have no Employee Assistance or wellness programs.
  • Have no HR departments who vet, contract with, and present health insurance options for them to choose from and who serve as accessible experts on their insurance plan.  
  • Often pay higher prices for insurance. Companies buy with economy of scale, and those group rates are not available to individuals.

How Can Freelancers Get Great Healthcare?

Freelancers are responsible for managing their own health and wellness needs. This can be challenging for someone who is new to the gig economy, and it requires ongoing effort. These six steps will help you get started.

1. Select a health insurance plan that meets your needs. Individual plans tend to change from year to year, so stay up to date on what your plan covers. If you have questions about your current coverage, call your insurance company.

Your plan options will vary from state to state, and individual plans typically aren't as comprehensive as company plans. For example, a government-affiliated individual plan may not include out-of-network benefits and may not be accepted at certain hospitals, which limits your treatment options.

2. Select a well-trained and experienced primary care physician. For guidance, see our post on choosing a great PCP.

3. Schedule an annual physical exam.

4. Build a network of trusted specialists.

5. Make sure ancillary services are covered. This includes eye doctors, dentists, and therapists as needed.

6. Confirm that your health insurance covers you when you are away from home. Some freelance careers are very mobile. If you travel often for work, be sure that your health insurance coverage is portable and that you are familiar with the providers in areas you visit often.

As a freelancer, you may not have the benefits that a full-time employee does, but you don't have to face the healthcare system alone. If you are struggling to select a health insurance plan or facing another medical issue, an expert health advisor can offer guidance.

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