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open enrollment

Open Enrollment Tips for the Self-Employed

3 min read • December 12, 2018
30 sec brief

If you’re responsible for navigating the healthcare labyrinth yourself, it could be easy to just give up and hope you don’t get sick.  In fact, research shows that almost 28% of people who identify as self-employed lack health insurance.  But going without health insurance could actually cost you much more than a headache if you...

If you’re responsible for navigating the healthcare labyrinth yourself, it could be easy to just give up and hope you don’t get sick.  In fact, research shows that almost 28% of people who identify as self-employed lack health insurance.  But going without health insurance could actually cost you much more than a headache if you actually need medical care.

So we’re here with some tips for getting through the open enrollment season.

Tip #1: Evaluate Your Health Needs

You want to answer the questions:

  • Why do I want or need health insurance? Is it just a “what if” scenario or do I have a condition that needs to be managed?
  • What prescriptions do I take?
  • Do I plan on anything changing in the next year, e.g. having a baby, getting married, having a surgery I need?
  • Am I willing to lose my doctor if it means paying a lower premium, deductible and/or maximum out-of-pocket expense?
  • If I had health insurance last year, what was my experience with my plan? What did I like and dislike, and how do I want the dislikes to be fixed?

Tip #2: Consider Your Financial Situation

More benefits typically mean a more expensive plan so before you go looking for the health insurance you want, it’s a good idea to know what you can afford.  Put together a monthly budget that includes your income and all of your expenditures to determine how much you can allocate to healthcare.  Then use a cost estimator like this one offered by Kaiser, to determine what your healthcare costs are likely to be.  If you see a big discrepancy, use your budget to look for ways you can cut back in order to afford adequate health coverage.

While the healthcare you needed in the previous two years can be a good indication of the type of care you’ll need in the next year, the costs of that care will likely go up.  In 2018, healthcare costs rose 5% on average from 2017, though the exact rate of change depended largely on where you lived.  If you want to see the estimated average increase in cost for your state, check out this table.

Tip #3: Write-off Rules are Changing in 2019

If you’ve been enjoying the ability to write off your health insurance premiums or itemized medical costs, take note of the new rules for 2019.  In previous years, you could write-off either your premiums or itemized medical costs that exceeded 7.5% of your income.  But in 2018, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which increases that limit to 10% for 2019 and beyond.

If you have a question about how much you can write-off, contact an accountant.

Tip #4: Check to see if You Qualify for a Tax Credit

If you purchase a health plan on Healthcare.gov, you might be able to qualify for a tax credit to help you offset the cost of your premium.  These credits are only available for some Bronze and most Silver plans and eligibility is determined based on income.  To find out if you’re eligible, go to this page on the Healthcare.gov website to get an estimate of your cost savings.

Tip #5: If You Still Feel Lost….

The healthcare labyrinth can be confusing, so you can always check out the NCSL Navigator Resource Guide.  It provides recent information on policy changes, a list of enrollment tools for consumers and it has answers to 100’s of FAQs.

It can take a little (or a lot) of time to figure out the right healthcare plan for you, especially if you’re doing it all on your own.  But there are resources out there to help you.  And remember, taking the time now to figure out which plan works for you could be less than the time it’ll take you to figure out how to pay for your uncovered medical expenses later.

About the author
Lauren Hargrave

Lauren Hargrave is a writer from San Francisco who focuses on technology, finance and wellness. She follows comedians like most people follow bands and believes an outdoor sweat session can cure almost any bad mood. She’s also been writing her first novel for so long, her mom doesn’t ask about it anymore.

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