With all the fanfare going on with the US government this month, this guest post by Michael Cahill, a health insurance writer is particularly timely. In this post he spells out what the Affordable Care Act means for us indie writers living in the US, and what you need to do in order to benefit from it. Take it away, Michael!
There is no question about it, the life of an independent writer is not for the light-hearted. Between knowing that you could be out of work tomorrow, learning to be your own boss, and competing with thousands of other writers, there is a lot of stress. Not the least of a writer’s worries is procuring affordable health insurance. Without access to a group rate like so many others, the independent writer is left to fend for them self on the individual market.
Fortunately, help is here in the form of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is a comprehensive reform of the healthcare system offering cost-efficient options to consumers of all sorts. The central provisions of the law look to make life a little bit easier for writers, but if you don’t understand how it works you won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits it offers. This guide is here to help independent and self-published writers get a hold of the basics of this sweeping legislation.
Getting To Know The Marketplace
The ACA revolves around the digital health insurance marketplace at healthcare.gov. On the marketplace, plans are organized into tiers based on their premiums and the amount of out of pocket costs you will have to pay. The tiers are bronze, silver, gold and platinum. In that order, the plans cover 60%, 70% , 80% and 90% of your costs. While the platinum plans have the highest amount of coverage they also have the highest monthly premiums. The key is knowing just how much coverage you will need.
How Much Coverage Do I Need?
Before purchasing a plan, asking yourself this question is key. Consider factors such as whether you have any chronic conditions. If you think you are someone who is not very likely to use a lot of medical services, a lower premium plan might be in order. Keep in mind though that unexpected medical expenses might run up your bill with out of pocket costs. It all depends on whether you feel comfortable taking the risk of higher out of pocket costs. A good idea is to evaluate how much money you spent on healthcare over the last several years. Compare the average cost of your annual healthcare costs to what you can expect to pay with a given plan.
Do The Plans Get Any Cheaper?
The thing that will probably make the biggest difference for writers buying health insurance on the marketplace is that there are tax subsidies offered on all the plans for people who make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). Naturally, as you get closer to the 100 percent mark the subsidies will get bigger. Even if you make near the top of that range, premiums will be capped at 9.5 percent of your income. The cap gets lower as you make less money.
To figure out how much of a tax subsidy you’ll get there are a number of calculators out there to use. We at Vista Health have one, but another great option is the one from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Essential Health Benefits Make Improvements On And Off The Marketplace
One of the biggest ways that the ACA is improving all healthcare plans, whether you buy it on the marketplace or not, is by requiring that they include a set of essential health benefits such as preventative care and ambulatory services. This means that even cheap plans will provide a good amount of coverage. It is important to know these essential benefits are categories of benefits, not specifically outlined services. It is up to each state to figure out what the actual benefits are. Whatever each individual state decides on for their essential health benefits, you are still sure to get great coverage.
Making Health Insurance For Independent Writers Easier
Health insurance should no longer be the thorn in the side of writers that it once was. A marketplace plan is a simple way to get good coverage. That being said, the ACA is still a long and complex piece of legislation. While the above guide is a good start, you should learn everything about the ACA you can or work with a licensed broker who can recommend plans that fit your needs. You now have the power as an independent writer to procure affordable health insurance, so make the best use of it you can.
Michael Cahill is the Editor of the Vista Health Solutions Blog. He writes about the healthcare system, health insurance industry and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealthMike