A freelancer's perspective on health insurance | Zach Everson

A freelancer’s perspective on health insurance

health_care_freelancerWith the 2008 presidential race beginning and several states implementing universal health care coverage, health insurance has been in the news recently.

Here’s my take:

Many labor experts and economists believe that workers in the United States stay in jobs they don’t like because health insurance here is tied to their employers. While I broke out of that shackle, I understand why so many people tolerate underpaying jobs that are beneath them just for the health insurance.

When I started freelancing a few years ago, I was on my previous employer’s COBRA plan. It cost over $300 a month. (I later discovered that I could have obtained cheaper insurance, but I had heard it was difficult to find as a freelancer, so I just kept my COBRA. I felt lucky to even have that.)

When my COBRA expired I was uninsured for about six weeks while I waited for an insurer to process my application. Now I am paying about $170 a month, which includes dental coverage. My deductibles are a lot higher than when I had COBRA, but thankfully I do not have any health issues, so that expense is not much of a concern.

While affordable insurance was available—at least for me—there are still drawbacks. A cheaper insurer pays doctors and dentists less than a more expensive one. Therefore doctors and dentists obviously are less inclined to accept new patients from insurers who pay less than other insurers.

Hence, I needed to make an appointment four months in advance with a dentist 75-minutes away to get my teeth cleaned. Unless, of course, I wanted to go back to paying $350 a month for health insurance. I reckon that experience helps counter the claims from opponents of universal health care that it will create long waits for medical treatments. For many of us, long waits already are a reality.

If you are a freelancer and are opposed to universal health care, please let me know why in the comments.

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5 Responses to A freelancer’s perspective on health insurance

  1. Nick August 7, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    I’m a student, and am insured right now, but I’ve waited tables, taught school, and done a bunch more jobs that didn’t provide health coverage. I think you’re right on. Even for those employed by large businesses, the more velocity we experience with regards to job and location changes (everybody seems to change jobs a half dozen times in their career, now), the more opportunities the insurance companies have to downgrade/change our insurance.

    Feel free to browse around at my blog and share your thoughts!

  2. Cy August 11, 2009 at 2:43 am #

    Hi Zach and Nick, your takes on health insurance are interesting, however as someone “somewhat older” I may have a bit more insight than either of you, as I have been at various times insured with mediocre, good and great plans, then with a plunge into self employment had to go to a Cobra plan (a pricey venture with a family that took a big bite out of our savings), then lived on the edge going without any health plan for awhile, and have also owned a small business with a few employees who made little more than minimum wage yet still barely broke even. And… I have also in my lifetime experienced the money-sucking bungling rediculous mountain of red tape to get just about anything done in the gluttonous apathetic bureaucracy of government and then it is very often not done right. My first experience with the vagaries of the labyrinth of our government at work, was when my sister was born, and an inattentive clerk typed on the birth certificate form that she was a he. Of course the issue seemed to come up with every new school year and off my dutiful parents would trot to various government offices attempting to correct the error. Try as they might though, the situation was never permanantly rectified until Sis received her draft card some eighteen years later and was told to report for duty during the Viet Nam war!!! And that was before government was as huge as it will get under this administration. I could tell bungling bureaucrat stories ad infinitum however, suffice to say I would be happy to scream from the rooftops Government is NOT the only answer, at least not a GOOD answer, just as in this past election Change has not, thus far, turned out to be a good change.(as an aside I am wondering how you two, who may not even have bought your own home yet, feel about the government voting to put you on the hook to pay back lazy and greedy lenders and some howeowners, for the mortgage fiasco, and now that Geitner has hinted they Will have to tax the middle class after all, because as he said “they gotta do what they gotta do” to pay back the monster trillion dollar “stimulus” (how’s that working for ya?)debt they have racked up in a scant six months. And he was the best guy they could find for the treasury secretary!?! sighhhh
    Sorry guys, I digress.
    Health care – yes it would be nice if everyone could afford it but for starters they would need to start expansion of users slowly and exponentially in relation to the amount of healthcare workers/nurses/doctors who are graduated (perhaps starting this process by giving more big scholarships to students majoring in any healthcare area) into the system to prevent mass overload to the healthcare professionals and facilities we now have available. Also instead of having insurance for everyone, have available – for purchase (on a sliding scale only a very BASIC government care plan AND a CATASTROPHIC policy to prevent people from losing their homes to illness. Wow I could go on for a very long time but too tired to continue right now. AlL I can say is that when the government gets involved usually a problem – even a fiasco results. But at this time,I am unable to type more as I’m going to bed to get some sleep. But ponder my remarks, I will try to remember to drop by again to debate the issue. God bless and good night til then. – Cy

  3. Zach Everson August 11, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    The U.S. government does a lot of things well:

    • our military is always cited as the best in the world
    • for $0.44 I can send a letter to my grandmother in northern Idaho, which she gets in two to three days
    • this Internet thing it created seems to be working quite nicely

    Is the government perfect? No. But is private industry? No. My first job out of college was at a big bank and brokerage firm, dealing with customer’s problems. We’d routinely lose people’s money, as much as $30,000, and spend weeks trying to find it.

    The government pays for kids’ education and does a decent, if not a great job, of providing it. If children are entitled to free government-sponsored education, why not health care? And, as with education, those who can afford better care elsewhere will have the option of pursing it.

    I agree that an incremental approach might be best though. Why not start by providing free universal care to all children?

    As for your question about the financial crisis, I own a home and while a government bailout isn’t something that excites me, it’s in all of our best interests to keep financial institutions solvent and homes out of foreclosure. If the house next to mine goes into foreclosure, the value of mine will drop too.

    My suggestion for preventing the problems that caused the financial crisis from occurring again? More government regulation, namely not allowing financial institutions to become too big to fail.

  4. Nick August 11, 2009 at 11:52 pm #

    Hi, Cy!

    Just to let you know, I’m a late-stage graduate student on the wrong side of thirty — I work for my money and I pay taxes, so I’m not trying to suggest sacrifices for others that I wouldn’t gladly make myself.

    I agree with you that government is not the only option, but I agree with Zach that I personally am better off if everybody around me has at least a basic level of health and safety. Here in California, there are tent cities sprouting up under railway trestles and unofficial tenements appearing in foreclosed homes — if you’re not motivated by the human suffering that all these homeless people represent, you should be motivated by the fact that a chaotic, poverty-stricken society (and health costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US) is dangerous for all its citizens, whether they’re personally wealthy or not — which is to say that when those tent cities decide to move into your suburb, or when bankrupt victims of health insurance companies decide to commit crimes in your neighborhood, it’s already too late, and there’s not much you can do to stop them. Social assurances prevent this kind of suffering and this kind of threat.

    So I read your post carefully, but I’m still in favor of a public option for national health care — especially since (and this goes back to your point that government is not the only option) it is going to be a choice that we can make for ourselves, rather than a government rule.

  5. Nick August 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    PS, Zach — I dinged this post on my blog — feel free to leave another comment if you have something to add or if I took you out of context. And where did Cy go? :)

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