For many Americans, the freedom associated with running their own business or working independently as a consultant or freelancer can be very appealing. But with that freedom and independence also comes a lot of responsibility, and not just the day-to-day operations and accounting processes necessary to keep the business afloat. There are also things like health insurance to consider.
“Buying health insurance — whether just for yourself or for your employees too — is one of the most important decisions you’ll face all year,” said Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO of PolicyGenius, an insurance industry consulting firm.
Here are some questions to keep in mind while looking for coverage:
- What Kind of Health Coverage Suits Your Needs?
If you’re shopping for yourself, as a sole proprietor, consultant or freelancer, for example, Fitzgerald said it’s important to understand what type of healthcare consumer you are.
“If you’re a high-use consumer (e.g., you have health conditions or otherwise frequently use medical services), consider plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs,” Fitzgerald recommended.
If the premiums for health insurance seem too high, remember that the costs of paying for health care out of pocket can be significantly higher, even financially devastating. Yes, you could potentially find credit card deals that would help you pay for some of the costs without racking up significant interest on your debt or going into collections, but leaving it to chance that you’ll remain healthy and not have any accidents is incredibly risky. Remember, medical debt can end up impacting your credit score as well, and that can hurt your business.
- Are You Eligible for Tax Credits?
“Millions of shoppers are eligible for tax credits but don’t take advantage of them to reduce their health insurance cost,” Fitzgerald said. Sitting down with your financial advisor or accountant could be very beneficial, as would a call to the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Advocate’s office.
- What Kind of Coverage Do Your Employees Need?
If your employees are young and single, their insurance needs are going to be different than if they are parents with small children or older and in need of more health care services.
Fitzgerald advised that taking that into account is critical to determining what types of plans and level of benefits to provide.
“Also, be aware of what similar companies in your market offer since you’re competing for talent and benefits are an important part of that equation,” she said. “Finally, get familiar with tax credits available to small businesses, which can help defray the cost of health insurance for your employees.”
- Talk to an Insurance Broker
If the idea of entering the Affordable Care Act marketplace concerns you, there’s still the option of buying coverage outside the system. Finding a reputable insurance broker who can walk you through your available options based upon your specific needs is important.
According to ObamaCareFacts.com, “You can use a private health insurance broker to help you enroll in a marketplace plan and you can also go direct to an insurer for assistance. You can also enroll in a plan not offered on the marketplace through some brokers and insurers. This means shoppers have options, but also complexities to consider.”
Of course, the same individual health care considerations apply equally whether you go through the ACA marketplace or choose a private option. Seeking guidance in both cases is wise.
Constance is an editor and writer at http://www.Credit.com. Prior to joining us, she worked as an editor for MSN.com, senior digital producer for CNBC, and digital producer for NBC Nightly News. She also is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, has worked for chefs such as April Bloomfield and Jean Georges Vongerichten, and is the founder of Crave Personal Chef Services in Austin, Texas.