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Getting Healthcare Without a Job

By Theodore Bressman
Quick Tips
  1. Don't test fate – Although there are many options for health insurance, not having it is not an option.
  2. Talk to the folks – They might be able to hook you up with the family healthcare plan until you can get your feet on the ground.
  3. On your own – If you're a freelancer, join the Freelancers Union to get health insurance at low rates. Short term insurance might also be an option if you don't have a history of medical problems.
  4. For the long haul – If you don't foresee health benefits in the next year, you should consider covering yourself for the long-term. Also, a Medical Savings Account will give you the opportunity to recoup money if you don't cover the deductible.
  5. Find your match – As with any insurance plan, choose one that suits you best. Think about if having the flexibility to move freely between doctors is important to you.

Many recent grads who freelance, work for start-ups, or spend their days playing backgammon and other games of leisure do not have health insurance. In fact, a quarter of all Americans in their 20s live without medical insurance of any kind. Hospitals don't

take bill collection lightly and even a broken arm can land you fifteen grand in the hole.

Think about it this way: Walking around without health insurance is a lot like signing up for a recreational Russian Roulette league. Even if nothing happens the first few weeks, sooner or later someone’s gonna get a bullet straight through the temple. Though the health insurance industry is completely abusive and falling to pieces, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find a reasonably good deal that can keep you healthy, wealthy, and maybe even wise. Remember that even if you're relatively fit a catastrophe could happen and you need to be covered; if you have a lot of health issues or need frequent prescriptions, you may want to look for wider coverage.

Keep It in the Family

Many states allow children to remain on their parents’ plan until surprisingly old ages. The great state of New Jersey, for example, allows residents to ride their parental coattails until the age of 30! Check out state specific information to see if you can stay afloat through your twenties. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as the semi-poisonous COBRA, gives grads no longer covered by their parents’ plans the option to extend coverage for 18 months. There is one major caveat: extending the plan means paying the amount the parent’s employer pays in addition to some administrative costs. The average cost for single coverage is estimated to be about $350 a month. Seems a bit high, but this might be the best option for people who have recently had serious illnesses or recurring medical problems, both of which may hike up initiation fees in certain states.

Join the Union

Look into joining the Freelancers Union. Why? Firstly, being part of a union is pretty cool. Secondly, the Freelancers Union offers a specialized network for freelancing professionals. Lastly, and most importantly, the union provides health insurance at pretty low rates. The cheapest deal in the union costs about $130/month with a $10,000 deductible. What does that mean? Basically, you pay discounted rates out-of-pocket for all medical expenses up to $10,000, and then afterwards all expenses are covered. So everything is covered in worst case scenarios without the possibility of long term debt.

Short Term Insurance

Short term insurance is a pretty nice option for individuals without a history of medical issues. “Emergency” coverage ranges from $40 to $70 per month for a generally healthy 25 year old. If necessary, check-ups and physicals come straight from the pocket, but they cost only a few hundred dollars and are worth the low monthly premium. Most insurers allow month-to-month payment, so if the individual changes employers and receives health benefits, he can opt out at any time. Check out competitive quotes for short-term plans at eHealthInsurance. Companies like Standard Security Life Insurance of New York, Assurant and HealthNet provide the best options for young people in need of health care.

Also, check out our guide on Considering Short-Term Health Insurance.

Cover Yourself in the Long Run

Individual coverage is also an option for people who do not envision getting health benefits in the next year. Check out eHealthInsurance or Blue Cross Blue Shield for some comparable quotes. Long term insurance ranges from about $250 to $500 per month for healthy individuals, with a few thousand dollar annual deductible. Long term insurance isn’t for everyone, but should be considered as an alternative to joining the Freelancer’s Union.

Those are the four primary options. And for the cherry on top?

Medical Savings Accounts

Many say that indemnity insurance is the best available choice for access to the lazy susan of medical options, but that doesn’t mean a Medical Savings Account (MSA) can’t help keep health care costs under control. A MSA takes a portion of money already spent on insurance and deposits a percent into an account that is paid back if the individual does not cover the deductible. Look into signing up for an MSA here.

Remember: Get health insurance, give blood (free cookies!), and stay healthy. Since signing up for health insurance requires a check-up (paid for by the health insurance provider), it’s also a nice way of finding out if you are HIV positive or have any other life-threatening diseases!



This tip may come in handy especially for my kids. Ever since I got laid off, I had to start freelancing when and wherever I could to make enough money to scrape by. Granted, I do have a little more "freedom" in a sense, but I have to work really hard to replace even half of what I made in my previous 9 to 5 job, and the job market isn't making things easy. I've cut a LOT of luxuries, like driving unless completely necessary, and I don't want to use credit cards or payday loans, or ANY sort of credit right now. I write a lot of stuff for various websites, odd jobs for people, temp agency work, whatever I can do to make a little money. Also, I could use more tips to be able to survive in this harsh economy.

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