Healthcare For Freelancers: Busting 5 Myths About Healthshares

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What are healthshares and how do they benefit freelancers' healthcare concerns?

Walk into any Starbucks and along with the shuffling of paper cups and the din of barely hushed conversation, you'll always hear the pitter-patter of laptop keys.

Though quiet, those keystrokes represent the resounding boom of the freelance economy's growth. 

Every year, millions of workers walk out of the front door of office buildings with boxes full of their desktop baubles, a few framed photos, and their "World's Best Boss" (where applicable) coffee mug for a life untethered and independent.

In fact, 57 million U.S. workers — who represent 35 percent of the workforce — now freelance, according to the Freelancing in America Survey conducted by the Freelancers Union and Upwork.

Even as these newly freed workers soar with optimism and possibility, they are grounded in some real concerns. Chief among these concerns is how to pay for healthcare.

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In order to make the best decision in your life as a freelancer, here are 5 healthshare myths you need to stop believing.

1. Healthshares work just like health insurance.

While healthshares and health insurance meet the same need, they go about it differently.

Healthshares and health insurance both try to meet the same need — help with your medical expenses. However, they go about it in entirely different ways.

With a healthshare, you join a community of people you have something in common with, like your occupation, faith, or commitment to healthy living.

The community then shares certain medical expenses according to the guidelines everyone agrees to.

That's very different from ACA governed health insurance plans who have mandates on what they must cover and who they must (or must not) provide insurance to.

For some, those mandates provide necessary assurances and peace of mind. For others, they are an unnecessary cost.

That means that healthshares are a good alternative for some, but not necessarily a replacement for health insurance for all.

Some key differences include the following:

Healthshares make their own decisions about what they will share with the community and are free to deny claims for things the ACA mandates insurance companies cover.

Since healthshares are more specifically tailored to their members and mitigate costs by pursuing the fair market price for medical needs, they may be significantly less expensive than insurance.

Healthshares save money and time by leveraging telemedicine.

Healthshares are not subject to the open enrollment period for new health insurance — you may join at any time.

Healthshare plans are not always eligible for HSA reimbursement.

Healthshare plans usually do not restrict who you can see for treatment and will usually reimburse expenses for seeing whichever professional you choose.

Healthshares also focus on mental well-being and have benefits for behavioral health.

Health insurance may provide more security for those with serious, pre-existing conditions.

2. Healthshares are "sketchy" because they are unregulated.

Thankfully, healthshares are not regulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That's part of what makes them attractive and affordable. However, they are not without oversight.

Healthshares are not regulated as strictly as health insurance plans. But that doesn't mean they are not legally obligated to render the services they promise.

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If any organization, healthshare or otherwise, fails to make good on their guarantees, they have committed fraud.

Many participants will find greater comfort knowing like-minded people are making decisions about their health and not corporate executives and politicians.

3. Healthshares don't allow you to keep your doctor.

In almost every case, you can continue to see your current healthcare providers, though most plans offer a network of physicians you can visit to dramatically reduce your costs.

Most healthshares allow you to see whatever medical professional you wish. That means you can continue to see the doctor you love.

Healthshares also leverage large networks of providers to drive down the cost of care.

These networks provide a more comprehensive range of caregivers you can see than the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) conventional insurance shoehorns you into.

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4. Healthshares won't cover pre-existing conditions.

While needs from pre-existing conditions aren't always covered or covered in the same way as ordinary health issues, there may be ways to have them taken care of.

Each healthshare plan has different guidelines and a different definition of a pre-existing condition.

For example, some plans do not classify an ailment as a pre-existing condition if it is well-managed with medication and no doctor visits have been required within the last 12 months.

If you're actively taking care of your health and wellness and can show a track record of your efforts, you will find a lot more latitude for pre-existing conditions.

Ultimately, if you have a pre-existing condition, you will have to evaluate your potential healthshare plan with care.

5. Healthshares can run out of money, especially if too many people leave at once.

Healthshares have a 22-year history. Providers estimate they have served more than 1.5 million members, paying out more than 1.5 billion dollars in healthcare dollars.

Each healthshare has its way of working with assets and risk. All of them manage funds to ensure security and peace of mind for their members.

Monies are set aside in a hazard fund to hedge against the possibility that the well runs dry. And, of course, each member’s responsibility amount is carefully calculated so that cash is never totally depleted.

Consider also that insurance companies may present a similar problem. Have you ever heard of a claim being denied on a technicality hidden in fine print?

Unfortunately, there's always a small amount of risk in any healthcare coverage.

While no one cannot predict the future and there's no magic wand to remove all doubt, you can rest assured that healthshares are on the rise and provide an excellent route to fair medical care costs.

There's a bright future for healthshares.

As more people claim their freedom from the daily grind and find ways to work independently, healthshares will continue to grow.

And as more of the independent community bands together to provide for each other’s medical needs, we can't do anything but predict a bright future for healthshares — and for the people who belong to them.

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Melissa Blatt is the founder of indipop, a healthshare company for gig and freelance workers.  Curious about healthshare plans from indipop? Within minutes, they can find the right plan for you and get you enrolled. To get started, visit their website.