These days health insurance is faster than takeout (really)! With open enrollment season currently underway until December 15th, we asked Lakshmi Manikantan, product designer at Stride Health, for the inside scoop on the best way to navigate the world of health insurance as a freelancer.
Being an independent designer is hard. I worked long and odd hours. Clients were difficult— they always wanted buttons to be bigger and they rarely paid on time.
I had very little time to think about anything else other than client and design work. I didn’t have time to plan my finances, my health insurance or my taxes. It was really hard to understand and figure these things out: I’m a designer, not a business person!! I figured I’d just take the risk and wing it.
So if I had to go back in time and give freelancing designer Lakshmi some advice, here’s what I’d tell her.
The Open Enrollment Period is already underway and ends December 15 (in most states). Buying insurance is often less expensive than the penalty (that comes when you don’t buy in time). Last year’s fine from the government was either $695 per person ($347.50 per child under 18) or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater.
Get the right plan—and check your options
Picking the right plan is confusing. “Is there even a ‘right’ plan for me?!” There are countless disclaimers and acronyms (HMOs, PPOs, EPOs, APTCs, MAGI and more) standing in your way, and no easy way to see what the plan covers (and what it doesn’t), discover which doctors are in-network, or see how much your prescriptions will cost. We designed Stride to solve these challenges in a single product to provide the guidance individuals and families need to succeed.
The lowest premium is not always the cheapest
If you have frequent doctor visits, complicated medical conditions, or expensive prescription drugs, out-of-pocket costs can add up quickly. So it’s often more affordable to pay a higher premium for a plan that provides more coverage. Stride estimates your total cost (monthly premiums plus out-of-pocket health care costs over the entire next year) so you can make an informed decision and select the right plan.
Don’t assume coverage is unaffordable
The lower your taxable income, the cheaper your health insurance is. Take the time to see if you can get a tax credit to pay for some of it. Deduct your business expenses (laptop cost, Photoshop subscription, etc.) from your income to calculate your taxable income. Basically, the lower your taxable income the higher subsidy you are potentially eligible for.
Taking the time to correctly estimate your income might mean thousands in annual savings. As Dribbble CEO Zack Onisko puts it, health insurance can be less expensive than a phone bill.
It’s confusing so get help
Open Enrollment can be really confusing and you will have many questions. I did. Is the government still helping pay for coverage? What plan best fits my needs? Don’t be afraid. Ask. We pride ourselves on getting you to your right plan and enrolling you in less than 10 minutes. We stick around all year long to deal with any insurance hassles, help you discover the free care that comes in your plan, make sure you don’t get hit with any big bills by going outside of your network, and make it simple.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or head over to Stride to get covered.
More questions? Lakshmi will be a panelist at our next D.Talks - The Future of Healthcare event happening on December 5th!