Health Insurance and Writers

In my informal poll on Twitter and Facebook, it became clear that health insurance is one of the main things that keeps we U.S.-based writers from being full-time writers. Seriously, I don’t know how families with children make it on one income until the writer’s income picks up.

For example, Nancy Brauer keeps a full-time job mainly because of the benefits. “I don’t yet have enough money saved to be able to support myself with a part-time job and purchase private health insurance,” she said. Brauer is working toward that goal. You can find out more about Brauer and her freelance life at Strange Little Band.

Writers in other countries where health care is subsidized and provided universally believe that the benefit of having available health care definitely removes an obstacle to freelancing. However, Dave Sherohman, who has freelanced in both the U.S. and abroad, pointed out on Facebook that the tax and regulatory structures can make it more challenging to manage your business once you make the break from the day job.

But, we’re here today to talk about health insurance, not taxes. COBRA coverage is a nice gesture, but it is extremely expensive. Private insurance may be an option, if your health is impeccable, but as designer Melissa Ek mentioned on Facebook, it can also be costly.

How can you find affordable health care options?

  1. Check your memberships. College alumni associations, membership groups, and other personal and professional affiliations can offer discounts on group health coverage. The Freelancers Union, Author’s Guild, and even MediaBistro offer health insurance for you to purchase, although restrictions apply and it is not available in all states.
  2. Ask your local or state government. Some government agencies may be able to point you toward insurance consortia that may offer affordable coverage.
  3. Look at your spouse’s plan. Is it cost-effective to simply add you (and your children, if applicable) to your spouse’s insurance policy? The cost of the coverage may be taken from pretax dollars, which can lessen the sting of the monthly expenditure.
  4. Price out the private plans. Start with the insurance coverage your employer currently offers–you’re familiar with the policies and restrictions, and you’ll be able to easily compare your options. Find a level of coverage that you are comfortable with, then look at other companies that offer similar options. Comparison shopping is essential on such a costly long-term expense.

Those of you who are already writing full time, how do you make sure you and your family have the insurance coverage you need?

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