The global health crisis sparked by the pandemic has shown people, no matter their job status, need effective and reliable healthcare benefits. Employees often have an HR team to help them with healthcare education and to sort through their options. Freelancers, though, know the responsibility to remain informed – and then secure comprehensive coverage – lies entirely with them.
Indeed, during open enrollment freelancers are in a unique situation. True: When it comes to health benefits providers freelancers enjoy a greater amount of choice. However, there is less access to full coverage with comprehensive care and decision support tools. Throw in the changes in healthcare brought about by the pandemic, and it has never been more difficult to make strategic healthcare decisions.
When sick or hurt, we’re often advised not to give in to our worst impulses by Googling our symptoms and searching for medical advice. But when researching insurance coverage, that is where we tend to start. However, we need to modernize our thinking. Because, just as a Google isn’t the best way to obtain medical advice, not all of the best answers about healthcare come from internet searches.
Open Enrollment 101: Benefits Plan Customization for Freelancers
To help us begin to look at insurance coverage options differently, let’s use the choosing of a cable television plan as an example. In the recent past, we would purchase a basic cable subscription, then pay for additional add-ons and special channels. But today, the right combination of streaming subscriptions offers similar content and more on-demand convenience than basic cable service. Those streaming services also provide solid recommendations based upon our preferences and behaviors. For many subscribers, this customization ultimately means more options, better value and better service.
Freelancers can apply a similar line of thinking when securing healthcare benefits. Traditional plans, like a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or high-deductible health plans (HDHP), may not be the best option for freelancers. Instead, look for ways to tailor coverage through products and resources like a HealthSherpa and Transamerica. These highly regarded providers can help you create a benefits plan that best fits your needs – at the best price and at the highest possible level of service.
Building Your Benefits Plan
When building your benefits plan, start with the core components: medical, dental, and vision. Next, perform a self-assessment of specific health care needs. For example, consider any chronic conditions that might be considered pre-existing or medication prescriptions that require a comprehensive pharmacy benefit option. Your goal: Determine the factors driving your plan and where more coverage or voluntary benefits are needed.
Next, determine your budget (and appetite for financial risk) by asking yourself three questions:
- How much coverage is my plan going to provide?
- Within the plan as designed, how much must I pay in out-of-pocket expenses when receiving care?
- What is the amount of your total monthly payments or premiums?
With the answers to these questions, you’ll know how much you’ll be paying – and for what combination of services.
Should You Add Voluntary or Supplementary Benefits?
What voluntary benefits should you take advantage of when personalizing benefits?
Typically, those are the supplemental insurance plans that provide a financial safety net. This is especially true in the event of a critical illness, accident, or hospital stay. Also, freelancers – just like everyone else – should look into enrolling in other lifestyle benefits such as personal protection plans. After all, as we continue to live online, it is important to protect yourself from the growing threat of fraud and identity theft.
On the positive side of supplemental benefits, consider joining those who have leveraged virtual wellness options. Also, with more and more people working from home, we’re likely to see an increase in off-the-shelf voluntary benefits that meet the unique needs of freelancers. Those plans include coverage of ongoing education, childcare options, and set-up of in-home office ergonomics.
Community and Freelancing: Find Your Emotional Support System
While most everyone is experiencing feelings of isolation and disconnection, freelancers – without an organization to call home base – might be feeling it just that much more.
To combat these feelings, consider getting involved in industry-focused communities. Today, there are thousands of options available online to connect. Social media groups and online communities often organize virtual coffee breaks and happy hours. During these events, they cover various topics and based on shared interests and hobbies. So, find like-minded solidarity that serves an important source of support throughout your career. Those groups also foster a a greater sense of wellbeing through emotional engagement.
Freelancers: Take Control of Your Open Enrollment
At a time when all aspects of our health, wealth, and wellbeing need protection, there are more resources and support available than you may have previously realized. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
The realities of our new world of work will continue to impact our lives. But freelancers can meet those challenges head on by being strategic and thoughtful about their benefits plan designs. Ultimately, the key to success during this open enrollment period means careful evaluation and proactive planning for future life events – both expected and unexpected.
We will eventually move forward to a post-pandemic world.
Between now and then, set yourself – and your freelance business – up for success.