How This Freelancer Obtained Health Coverage Without Breaking The Bank
Written by: Dave Divis
Let’s face it. Healthcare in the U.S. is a mess. The current politcal climate in Washington provides little assurance that anything will change in the foreseeable future.
Many of us that freelance in the broadcast/live events/corporate-convention production industry are between the proverbial rock and hard place. We make more than the maximum amount allowed to get any assistance paying for coverage, but skyrocketing premiums aren’t exactly pocket change.
My own case in point: The least expensive Bronze option for my individual policy under ACA would now be $735/month. Remember, this is an individual policy! There are freelancers paying well over $1000 to cover themselves and their families.
The solution for me came when I discovered healthshares. While technically not insurance, it follows the same principle of bringing people together to share costs. Unlike insurance companies, healthshares are non-profit. After researching several healthshares, I chose Liberty.
Here’s what I learned:
You contribute a set amount monthly, known as your “share.” Like insurance, that amount varies depending on how many people you wish to cover and the amount of coverage you want. Choose between single, couple, or family. Then select the desired amount of coverage. Choose 70% of eligible bills up to $125,000, or 100% of eligilble bills up to $125,000 or $1,000,000 per incident. The most popular is the $1,000,000 choice. It is only a few dollars more per month than the others and comes with discount cards good for dental and vision.
The only age categories for determining your share amount are under 30, 30-65, or over 65. If choosing a single plan, the rate is the same for both men and women. My monthly share is $199.
Like your other bills, you can set up your monthly share to be autodrafted from your checking account or charged to a credit card. (Tip: mine is charged to my Costco card, so my monthly share counts toward my cash back).
When first joining Liberty, I contacted my doctor’s office so I’d have all the payment info set-up. They were unfamiliar with healthshares. No problem. Liberty contacted them on my behalf and made all the arrangements. On the Liberty website is a list of providers that are already set-up to accept payment. Your doctor may already be on this list, so it is worth checking. Mine wasn’t, but as you can see, it was not an issue.
There is no network you have to stay in to receive the benefits of enrolling in Liberty, so the worry of whether your doctor is in network or out of network is eliminated. Go to whoever you want!
Just like insurance, Liberty covers various wellness exams/procedures 100%.
Note that since healthshares are not technically insurance, they can’t use the same terminology the insurance industry uses. So instead of paying a deductible, you pay your AUA (annual unshared amount). It means the same thing as a deductible, they just can’t call it that. And the AUA is $500!
How do they do it? How do they keep this affordable? A few of the ways:
Liberty asks you to take an active roll in your healthcare. For example, if you need non-emergency surgery, they request you contact them ahead of time. Tell them the procedure you are having, name of doctor performing it and other general information. They will contact the provider and negotiate the best price they can. Another way they minimize costs by running an efficient office. Typically administrative costs eat up 20% of health insurance premiums. Liberty keeps that to around 12% of your monthly share, leaving more money for actual care, not painting some CEO’s yacht or financing his vacation home on the Riviera.
Enrolling was easy. It took about 10 minutes to complete the on-line application. Once submitted, the website said I’d hear back within 24-48 hours. About 2 hours later, I received my acceptance notice.
If this all sounds too good to be true, there is something to keep in mind. Since Liberty is not insurance, they are not subject to ACA rules. That means they don’t have to accept everyone. However, that does not mean pre-existing conditions automatically disqualify you. Check their website or call to discuss your situation before applying.
Healthshares are exempt from the penalties charged under ACA. No need to be concerned about being fined because you don’t have health insurance. You will have to file an extra form with your federal taxes showing you are in a healthshare. It is simple and only takes a few minutes. Fortunately, Liberty has an example on their website for those that do their own tax returns.
I had a list of questions after visiting their website. The customer service person answered them all and took the time to be sure I understood everything.
Conclusion: healthshares are gaining in popularity and it is easy to see why. A much lower cost alternative to ACA and with great coverage and benefits. Well worth checking out. In Liberty’s case, they have over 100,000 members and are steadily growing.
Disclaimer: the author receives no compensation from Liberty for this article. It is for information purposes only, merely relating his own experience with Liberty. There is more you should know before deciding if it is for you. Perform due diligence before signing up or sending money. Visit their website at libertyhealthshare.org.
About the author:
Dave Divis is a freelance broadcast/live event/corporate-convention Video Director/Switcher/Engineer. His 30+ years experience include news, sports, live call-in, rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, talk shows, TV show pilots, numerous concerts, and more award shows than he can count. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org