Research from Intuit shows that 28% of freelance workers do not have a health plan—more than double the 12% of Americans who don’t have insurance. By not having health insurance, these workers will face 2016 IRS fines that start at $695 and grow from there.
“Finding the right health plan is an important financial decision, and one that can be confusing to many freelancers and self-employed individuals,” says Noah Lang, CEO of Stride Health. “By simplifying the process and tying this important health decision directly back to an individual’s finances, we can significantly move the needle on the number of independent workers that are protecting both themselves and their incomes.”
To help these workers get the health coverage they need and avoid potentially expensive fines and penalties, Intuit and Stride Health have come together to provide five tips to help freelancers find the right health plan during the Open Enrollment period.
1. Re-Evaluate Your Specific Needs
Unlike employees of big companies, you don’t have to accept a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Use this to your advantage. Whether you are signing up for the first time or switching plans, use the Open Enrollment period as an opportunity to evaluate your specific healthcare needs and find a plan to match.
2. Save Money
In this case, paying sooner actually saves you money! That’s because by signing up by December 15, your coverage will start January 1, 2016. This maximizes both your ability to pay for medical expenses using your health plan throughout the entire year, and the potential tax deductions you can have through paying premiums. Some health insurance premiums are deductible, and QuickBooks Self-Employed will help you to figure out which ones.
3. Avoid Penalties
By missing the Open Enrollment deadline, not only do you miss out on the benefits of being covered, you also open yourself up to tax penalties. The IRS fines for not having coverage are $695 or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater.
4. Plan for Tax Time
Speaking of the IRS, tax time isn’t far off. Make sure you are taking full advantage of healthcare-related tax deductions and tax credits provided by the government. For example, consider opening a health savings account (HSA), a tax-advantaged bank account reserved for health-related expenses. The “net savings” to you is usually between 25% and 40%, depending on your tax bracket.
5. Monitor Your Coverage All Year-Round
Make sure you get the best return on your health insurance investment. Take advantage of year-round support from Stride Health to ensure you are maximizing the benefits of your health plan. For example, get help understanding what free benefits your plan offers (and which make the most sense for you to use), and be notified when your favorite doctor leaves your health plan’s network.
Self-employed workers have grown to 36% of the U.S. labor force and are expected to reach 43% by 2020. On-demand workers alone are projected to grow from a current base of 3.2 million to 7.6 million by 2020. It’s important that this quickly growing population understands both the health and financial implications of the health insurance decision.
For more Open Enrollment tips, see our article on 11 money-saving strategies for selecting the right health insurance plan.