by Elena Fawkner
"I've been considering quitting my full-time job and getting a part-time job that would pay the bills [so I can start a home business] ... The one biggie my full-time job provides me now is health insurance. If I was to get a part-time job, I'd probably have to pay for my own health insurance and I know that can be expensive."
Like Jason, many a dissatisfied employee would chuck in their full-time J.O.B. (just over broke) for their part-time home-based business in a heartbeat if not for one thing. Employer-provided health benefits. It's a biggie, no doubt about it.
Undeniably, employer-paid or -subsidized health benefits are one of the few real perks of working for someone else. In fact, surveys have shown that, for employees (especially those with families), paid benefits are hands down the most important element of their compensation packages.
And there's no shortage of people already running their own home businesses with no health or disability coverage at all. Scary. After all, if you're dependent upon your home business as your sole source of income and you lose your health, you lose your livelihood as well.
Bottom line? If you run a home-based business you can't afford not to have health coverage of one form or another. Here's how to make it happen, whatever your circumstances.
BASIC OPTIONS FOR THE EMPLOYER OF ONE (YOU)
You have three basic options when it comes to health and disability insurance.
If your spouse has health coverage from his or her employer, as a general rule, use that. It probably provides better and less expensive coverage than you could get on your own.
Group Health Insurance
The main advantage of group health insurance plans is that they can't turn you away because of health problems. The good news for the solo entrepreneur is that an increasing number of companies are offering group health plans for "groups" of one. This varies by state though so you'll need to do your homework to find one.
Individual Health Insurance
These plans are fine if you don't have any pre-existing medical conditions. (If you do, try your best to find a group plan that will cover a group of one.) They're subject to medical underwriting so your state of health will be a factor the insurance company takes into account in determining whether to accept your application.
Of course, the mere fact that you're able to get into a good plan is one thing. Doing so affordably is quite another.
REDUCING THE HIGH COST OF HEALTH INSURANCE
There are several ways of minimizing the cost of health insurance. Your tolerance for risk will determine which, if any, you are comfortable with.
Reduce the Level of Coverage
Do you really need to have every doctor's visit and prescription covered? If you only go to the doctor once a year for an annual examination, have no health conditions, don't need regular expensive prescription medications and are generally healthy, consider cutting out coverage for office visits and prescriptions.
Similarly, if you're reasonably healthy, don't visit the doctor very often and don't need to use expensive medications, consider switching to a higher deductible to save on premium costs. By increasing your deductible from $100 to $2,000, you can cut your premium payment in half.
Annual Premium Payments
If you can afford to do so, pay your premiums annually rather than monthly or quarterly to avoid service fees and to take advantage of prepayment discounts where available.
Just because you're going it alone in your business doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the group buying power that being a member of an association offers. Check out your local chamber of commerce, various trade and professional groups and small and home business associations for member benefits. Many offer access to discounted health insurance.