Saturday, September 1, 2007

Health Insurance tips for the self employed and small business owners

By: Kade Phillips, contributing writer at

Being self employed is for many people, a dream come true, with benefits such as setting your own hours, ideally being rewarded for the extra hard work that you do, and perhaps not having to commute to an office each day, to name just a few.

But, as anyone who’s been self employed will tell you, life isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, and there are definitely some hurdles to overcome with regards to the differences between working for working for yourself and working for someone.

One such area that gets frequent attention is the area of health insurance, with the self employed and small business person often feeling at somewhat of a disadvantage when compared to their counterparts who are not self employed. The majority of Americans obtain their health insurance through their employer, and many people perceive there to be less cost and more benefits associated with employer sponsored health insurance plans.

Depending on the circumstances, this may or may not be true, but it would be wrong to assume that employer sponsored health plans are always better

Deciding what you are prepared to spend on a monthly basis to cover your health insurance needs is one of the most important decisions to make, and having done that, here are some things you can do to get the best protection for your budget:

Avoid being drawn in by marketing which offers “perks” such as health club memberships, massage and other “extras”. These extras can only add to the cost of the insurance, and are probably not what you really need.

It may be worth your while to avoid purchasing health insurance that covers the costs of regular medical expenses like annual check-ups, prescriptions, and other things like regular dental care. Instead, allocate a portion of your budget to covering these basic needs. The health insurance that you buy could then be more specifically for catastrophic or emergency medical needs above and beyond the basics.

Choose a higher deductible , and save yourself a significant amount in premium payments over the year and years to come. If you carefully set aside some funds each month according to your budget, eventually will accumulate enough to cover the deductible if that need should ever arise. Remember, you’re trying to insure against situations that are above and beyond regular and routine situations. Also, it makes no financial sense to be paying an extra $1000 in premiums, if you could reasonably expect to pay less than that if you covered the basic items yourself. If you want to save the most amount of money on your health insurance while still protecting yourself against disaster, choosing a higher deductible is definitely something to consider.

Use the power of the Internet, to do your research quickly and easily. Several web sites specialize in showing you multiple offers from different health insurance providers with the one time submission of your basic information. The power of this cannot be understated, because you are able to compare multiple offers side by side, without having to go to each company’s specific website. Depending on the plan, you may even be able to purchase your policy online without having to go through a physical examination first. Using your favorite search engine, simply type in “health insurance quotes” or “buy health insurance” or something similar to begin your research.

Buyer beware. Before you purchase, try to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company that will honor its side of the deal if it should ever come to that. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Using the major search engines to lookup “XYZ company complaints” or “XYZ company problems” or something similar can often alert you to problems that are obviously not mentioned on the company brochure. Use your discretion when doing this because every company gets complaints from time to time, it’s how they’re resolved that really matters. Just try to make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable firm that will be around if you need them.

As you can probably see by now, being self employed or a small business owner could even be seen as an advantage in certain situations because you can tailor the coverage to your needs more exactly, and not have the lack of choice that comes with some employer sponsored health care plans. The keys to obtaining the affordable health coverage you need are a little research before you purchase and a disciplined approach to your budget

One of the major concerns of the self employed and small business owners is the ability to purchase affordable health insurance. Surveys indicate that about one in four self employed individuals do not have health insurance today. Many could probably afford quality health insurance, but are simply put off by what they hear about affordability.

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