Ask Me Anything: Health Insurance and Memberships

Mary Jo Campbell asks,
What are the best options for health insurance for family?

As a writer, insurance can be harder to come by. Personally, I’m in the lucky position of being able to use the insurance my husband gets through his employer, but I haven’t always been so lucky. Before we were married, I didn’t have health insurance — pretty much ever! My father also runs his own business and went through several different insurance options before coming to the conclusion that paying out of pocket was actually cheaper as long as we didn’t get sick. Not a great option, but a common one.

The problem is that there still aren’t that many great options for freelancers and the self-employed. No matter what, you’re going to be paying a nice chunk of change. On the plus side, though, with the various health insurance reforms, you can almost certainly get insurance now if you’ve got the money.

I’d specifically suggest using one of the online health insurance dealers to search through rates and see what’s financially feasible for you and your family. I tend to recommend eHealthInsurance because they’ve actually done some studies relating to health insurance options for small business owners and freelancers and their PR staff (hey, Suzanne!) has been great about willing to sit down and go over numbers with me. Depending on where you’re based, the Freelancers Union may be helpful. I’ve heard that the insurance they can offer is better in New York than some other states, but they do have some sort of plan available in every state.

Mary Jo Campbell asks,
What’s the best business association to join for discounts/perks (i.e. travel, cell phones)?

I prefer to join local business associations — I always seem to get better discounts locally and the odds that I’m getting a perk I’ll actually use is higher. One of my on-going complaints is that the perks that many writer-specific business associations aren’t actually useful if you’ve been in the writing business more than a few weeks. For instance, many organizations offer a free website. Hopefully, most professional writers already have a website in place before doing much else and it is very easy and inexpensive to come up with a better website than the freebie that certain organizations offer — free websites, no matter who is providing them, never look professional. Cell phones and similar perks simply aren’t offered by most writing associations.

One organization does stand out in terms of the educational resources and the writer-specific perks they do offer, though: ASJA gets its members discounts on Lexis-Nexis, some competitive insurance rates and really cheap magazine subscriptions. Depending on the writing you do, their benefits can make a major difference in what you’re spending.

Got a question about the business side of writing? Leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it next week.

1 Comment

  1. Alan   •  

    I am a member of a co-op and we pay <$300/mo. The policy for membership is restrictive. That is why the monthly outlay can be what it is. Alan

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