Health Insurance for the Gig Economy
This should not be a surprise to anyone, but not everyone in the working world has a regular 9-5 office job. There are those of us who work a full-time job, a combination of part-time jobs, as well as a growing population of entrepreneurs who run their own business from home [link to entrepreneur blog]. There is also a growing population of Americans who make their money in what is commonly referred to as the “gig economy.”
Unfortunately this kind of work does not typically come with benefits such as health insurance. There’s no employee plan to opt into/. Instead it’s the responsibility of the individual to obtain (and retain) their own health insurance policy. Thus, it’s incredibly important for everyone to understand what their best options are in order to stay covered at all times.
If you make your money through paid gigs (or would like to), you need stay on top of your own health insurance. Especially in this economy, success is determined by those who know how to take control of their finances.
What is the Gig Economy?
The government's Bureau of Labor Statistics refers to a gig as a “single project or task” which someone is hired to do, “often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.”
Picture a rockstar. If you’re a musician, you probably have entertained this fantasy at least once or twice: big stage, flashing lights, rocking out in front of thousands of screaming (paying) fans. Even if you don’t play music, it’s a common desire to be able to get paid to make art for a living. But before you get money, you’ve got to monetize.
To get gigs, you’ve got to be good at something. Whether it’s music, or another skill like designing a logo, building a website, or food delivery services- you must be in demand (or adept at promoting your services).
Whatever you offer, there’s an infinite amount of opportunities for freelance work.
So Many Different Gigs
Hustling for gigs is not a new thing of course, but in past years the internet has enabled us to connect to virtually anyone, anywhere. Now you can even get a gig through a mobile app on your phone, and often times do the work from home.
Here’s a list of some common gigs people are getting. Maybe you’ve even tried some of these:
- Answering surveys online
- Data entry
- Helping people move
- Personal shopping (Grubhub, Instacart, UberEats etc.)
- Pet sitting
- Math tutoring
- Teaching music
- Driving Uber or Lyft
- Event chef
- Event security
- Event promotion
- Personal trainer
- Website analysis
- Website development
- Cleaning houses
And there are a thousand more in these gig economy times. There are more gigs coming about all the time too. Pretty much anything you can imagine doing, there’s going to be someone (somewhere) willing to pay someone else to do it.
Find Your Niche
Many gig workers possess a talent that they enjoy doing (probably how they got so good). What are you really good at? Focus on your strengths, and with the right amount of perseverance you can find work that suits your talents. Got skills? Get paid for it!
You’ll Need Health Insurance
This cannot be stressed enough. Before you start doing anything, you’ll need to make sure you have your healthcare needs covered. After all, you never know when an accident could occur - during or in between the gig.
It’s Rough Out There
Relying solely on gig work can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have the freedom to work whenever and wherever. And you can make money in all kinds of different ways for things you don’t mind doing.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the gig economy - namely the pressure to get more gigs. It can be a struggle just to pay bills when you don’t know when your next gig will come. Unless you have actually made it to the level of rockstar, you must be relentlessly searching to secure more work.
As part of your job, you must stay on top of all your expenses (and taxes). It’s also your responsibility to take care of your physical and mental health.
Keep the Costs Low
If you’re wise, you recognize how important it is to save money in the gig economy. Even though your gigs won’t come with a health care plan, you still need it. Do not underestimate this. Like many things in life, health Insurance can be expensive - but if you know what to look for, you can find an affordable plan.
What’s the Best Option for Health Insurance?
There’s no magic “one size fit all” health insurance for gig economy workers, but rather many options that work well depending on your individual needs. There are a few different ways to get health insurance, which are important to be aware of:
- Purchasing an ACA Plan (Obamacare) through state or federal health insurance online marketplaces
- Purchasing an individual plan through a private company (like Cigna or Humana)
- Purchasing short term medical insurance through a leading website (like AgileHealthInsurance.com)
Each one of these comes with their own varying degrees of benefits. If you have serious pre-existing conditions, or you want a plan that includes all of the essential health benefits required by the ACA (e.g. maternity, mental health, etc), an ACA plan is likely the best option. You’ll have guaranteed coverage. If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, ACA plans can be more expensive, and there’s a limited time to sign up (aka the Open Enrollment Period). To check out your options, go to healthcare.gov.
If you are on a tight budget and need to save money, short term medical insurance is a good option to cover you in case of accidents and illnesses (as long as you have no pre-existing conditions). Best of all, this type of coverage is available to purchase year-round.
Short term medical insurance used to only consist of three-month policies, but now, depending on where you live, you can stay covered for the whole year. Short term plans can be catered to your budget and keep you covered when you need it most (such as unforeseen illnesses, accidents or other major life events).