Being your own boss comes with a world of opportunities and perks, but it also means taking charge of your own health insurance.
Without the traditional benefits offered by employers, finding affordable and comprehensive coverage can feel daunting.
In fact, nearly one in four self‐employed workers is uninsured — a much higher rate than regular employees, according to a 2021 study published in Health Services Research.
While it may be tempting to go without health insurance, that’s a disaster waiting to happen.
6 Health Insurance Options for the Self-Employed
Don’t let being an independent contractor or freelancer prevent you from getting the health care you need.
Try these six resources to find affordable health insurance when you’re self-employed.
1. Health Insurance Marketplace
The Health Insurance Marketplace was created as part of the Affordable Care Act, and it’s aimed at people who can’t get coverage through their employer.
This can include part-time employees, freelancers, gig workers, college students, people who are self-employed or unemployed and early retirees under 65, among others.
Most of the 14.5 million people enrolled in insurance through the public marketplace receive subsidies to help lower their premiums. This can help you save money on your health insurance coverage.
There is no income cap to qualify for subsidies, but the lower your income, the higher the premium tax credit you’re eligible to receive.
Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15 each year. This 11-week period is the only time you can sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act unless you have a qualifying life event, such as getting married or divorced.
To sign up, go to HealthCare.gov. From the home page, you can either enroll in coverage for the first time, view your existing plan or compare plans.
You can use HealthCare.gov’s Plans & Prices tool to estimate the cost of a marketplace plan based on your income.
2. Health Insurance Brokers
Health insurance brokers — like Stride and Gravie — assemble a variety of plans from several health insurance companies based on the type of coverage you’re looking for so you can quickly compare them and find what you need.
Working with a health insurance agent or broker can be beneficial, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the complex world of health insurance.
Just be aware that most insurance agents and brokers earn commissions from the insurance products they sell.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s important to know that an agent’s recommendations may be influenced by the commissions they receive from insurance companies.
3. Your Partner’s Employer Plan
If your partner is employed and has access to an employer-sponsored health insurance plan at work, you might be able to join their plan. This can be a cost-effective way to obtain coverage.
Some employers allow self-employed spouses or domestic partners to join their plan regardless of their employment status. Other companies may require you to prove you don’t have access to alternative coverage.
You may need to wait until your partner’s open enrollment period to be added to their plan. You might be able to join sooner if you experience a qualifying life event, such as getting married.
4. Freelancer and Industry-Specific Groups
Several professional associations and organizations offer group health insurance plans for members. Joining one of these associations can provide access to affordable health insurance coverage with group discounts.
Freelancers Union, for example, connects freelancers with affordable health insurance plans.
The National Association for the Self-Employed is a group dedicated to supporting independent workers and small businesses. By becoming a member of NASE, you can get a quote for their health insurance offerings.
Industry-specific organizations like the National Writers Union or the Professional Photographers of America are also great places to find leads on discounted health insurance.
5. Health Insurance Companies
Health insurance companies like Cigna and UnitedHealthcare offer private health insurance plans for self-employed people.
The companies offer a wide range of price points and coverage options to choose from. It can be difficult to figure out the right one to choose, but it’s worth it to spend time researching your choices.
Keep in mind that purchasing a health plan on your own from a private company can be really pricey.
6. Health Care Sharing Ministries
These faith-based organizations distribute health care costs among their members to help ease the burden of medical bills.
Through monthly contributions, members pool their resources to cover each other’s health care costs, acting as a collective safety net.
You’re usually required to share the same religious and ethical beliefs to join the ministry.
While health care sharing ministries offer an enticing alternative, it’s important to understand that these groups are not legally bound to cover your medical expenses.
The level of coverage varies, and there may be restrictions on certain procedures or pre-existing conditions.
How Much Does Health Insurance Cost for Self-Employed People?
Your age, location, desired coverage level and the specific plan you choose all play a role in the cost of health insurance.
With so many variables at play, it’s hard to estimate the average cost of a plan.
For example, the average person pays $438 a month for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, according to KFF. But your cost might be much lower depending on where you live or if you qualify for tax subsidies.
The good news is you may be eligible for certain tax deductions related to your health insurance expenses.
The self-employed health insurance deduction lets you deduct 100% of your health insurance premiums from your adjusted gross income when you file your income taxes.
What’s great about this deduction is that it’s an adjustment to your income rather than an itemized deduction. That means you can claim it whether you itemize or take the standard deduction.
Tips for Saving Money on Health Insurance Coverage
As a freelancer, you also double as your own human resources department. It’s up to you to find the best coverage and plan at the right price.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you search for health insurance.
- Check the marketplace first: For most self-employed folks, coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace is likely going to be your best deal. Research these options before contacting an insurance broker or using a private exchange.
- Crunch the numbers: Look beyond the premiums alone — consider deductibles, copayments and out-of-pocket maximums of each plan to get a holistic view of the costs.
- Consider high deductible health plans: These plans offer lower monthly premiums but higher deductibles (think at least $1,500 and up). Pairing an HDHP with a health savings account can provide tax advantages and help you save for future medical expenses.
No matter which option you choose, keep this in mind: Read the fine print. A thorough understanding of your health insurance coverage could save you big bucks.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer at Codetic. She covers retirement, investing, taxes and life insurance.
Lisa McGreevy, a former staff writer at Codetic, contributed to this story.