Top 4 tips to manage health care costs as a self-employed individual
Working as a freelancer or solo entrepreneur can be invigorating. You are responsible for your own path in life. You get to set your own schedule and do things on your own terms. There are also times when business is slow and it’s a struggle to keep your head above water. It may seem like everything is a burden and every single little charge is really breaking the bank.
Budgeting and managing costs is a great way to ensure you have enough money to stay afloat. Managing health care costs (both anticipated and unexpected) is a great way to regain control over your finances and rest assured that you will be ok if something should happen. We’ve put together some tips to help you manage your health care costs as a self-employed individual, so you can spend less time stressing and more time building your business.
Take advantage of the Marketplace and find a health plan that fits your needs
Self-employed people have the benefit of shopping for healthcare through the Marketplace during Open Enrollment. During this time, plans are made available via the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from November 1st through December 15th on the HealthCare.gov website. Some states may run their exchanges through state-run websites and may follow a slightly different timeline. In some cases, if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) falls below 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL), you probably qualify for a subsidy that can be used towards your monthly insurance premiums. Alternatively, you may be eligible for Medicaid.
Enrolling through this time window allows you to take advantage of the greatest options for health plans. If you miss it, you will have to qualify for a special circumstance (job loss, divorce, marriage, etc.) in order to gain access to the same wide breadth of plans available. Otherwise, you may be able to pay more for a special short term health insurance plan.
Those living in Austin, Texas do have another option: enroll in one of Decent’s health care plans. Both our Pathfinder and Trailblazer plans run well below market rates in terms of premiums and they both offer free primary care. That means you pay $0 to see your doctor, no matter how many times you see them. The best part? Open enrollment for a Decent plan is all year long. You can enroll at any time.
Do your homework on prescription meds
Not all prescription meds are created equal. That is, not all pharmacies charge the same rate for certain prescription medications. In fact, the prices can vary from location to location—sometimes, quite a bit. Here’s another tip: there are several discount programs available that can significantly lower prescription drug costs (and make it easier to compare prices)!
Check out GoodRX, which can offer discounts on prescriptions at pharmacies across the nation. It also provides comparisons of medication costs and it does not require any specific financial parameters to qualify. In some cases, GoodRx coupons can create 50% discounts or more.
Prescription Hope is another program to consider. It enables patients to access over a thousand brand-name prescription drugs at a rate of $50 each month per medication, no matter what the pharmacy is charging. This program does have income guidelines you must meet to qualify, which may be impacted depending on the size of your family.
Consider your treatment options
In some cases, it could save you money to go to an urgent clinic rather than to an emergency room (ER). for one, copays for an urgent care clinic tend to be much lower than ER visits, and they are often equipped to diagnose, treat, and handle many (non-life-threatening) issues, including cuts, lacerations, strains, fractures, rashes, bronchitis, colds, the flu, and more. Many also have a fully stocked supply of common prescription drugs that may be available at reduced cost. Other discounts may be available to patients who are able to pay for the visit out-of-pocket.
Get on a payment plan
If you’re already in hot water with medical bills, consider getting on a payment plan. There are several different ways to do this. One way is to contact the health provider to see if you can set up a monthly minimum payment with them. Some will offer the option to create income-based repayment plans so you can pay what you are able each month. If you do have cash on hand, some providers will offer a discount if a patient pays their bill in cash. Another option is to sign up for a CareCredit card. This service allows you to finance medical payments over a fixed amount of time by making on-time monthly payments. As long as you make your monthly payments on time, no interest is charged.
Find a health plan with Direct Primary Care (DPC)
Having health insurance that is built around DPC can be hugely beneficial—to your health and your wallet. For one, it allows you to see your doctor as often as you’d like for just a low, monthly flat fee. That means no surprise bills or hidden fees. Most DPC plans include visits with your primary care doctor but also other important services, like clinical and laboratory services, consultative services, care coordination, and comprehensive care management.
Not only is this options superior to the traditional fee-for-service model, but it allows you to get unlimited care without draining your life savings. This can be handy to stay on top of health issues and to prevent additional health issues from occurring. Decent offers two different plans that both include free primary care and are built specifically for freelancers. Get a quote to see if one of these might be right for you.
Taking some of the tips above into consideration can be a helpful way to manage healthcare costs over time, even on an unpredictable income. No need to stress! Simply keep these tips in mind and do your homework. Having options can make it that much easier to manage your budget and stay on top of healthcare costs without breaking the bank.