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The Almighty Buck

Group Medical Insurance For Contract Programmers? 13

Posted by Cliff
from the taking-care-of-yourself dept.
metasim asks: "I'm in the process of starting my own business and working for myself as a consultant/contract programmer in the U.S. Ironically, my major stumbling block in getting this business started is not finding paying clients, but finding affordable health insurance. Is there a *group* medical insurance plan available to contract programmers, either through membership in some association or through some other affiliation? I have a 'pre-existing condition', that although minor, causes individual/family insurance providers to jack up the prices or to not consider me at all."
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Group Medical Insurance for Contract Programmers?

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  • In NH small businesses can join insurance pools for reduced rates. Other states may have similar programs.
  • If I remember correctly, the professional organizations ACM or IEEE may offer health insurance policies.
  • I work with my local chamber of commerce, and one of the "member benefits [aurorachamber.com]" is the ability to participate in the purchase of things like medical insurance as part of the group. For a one-person consulting business membership is usually pretty cheap, and it may well be worth it if you are trying to insure a family.

  • Check with your friendly local Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade or whatever the local "business interests promotion/lobby" outfit is. Many of these have deals on various types of insurance available to their members; access to those deals is one of the benefits and enticements to joining the group.
  • I almost had a similar problem. I was 5'10, 262 lbs. I found another insurance company that would use the results of a stress test, nurses evaluation and a physical. Since I actually was at 18% body fat and everything else was perfect I qualified for the 5A rating and rate.

    Look into this if your circumstances would indicate that they're just looking at a height/weight chart (if I took myself down to the 180 pounds indicated on one of those my doctor assured me I'd be dead).

  • I've been thinking about this for a while. I think what we need is the equivalent of a credit union for fringe benefits -- a member-owned organization independent of the employer, who offers a cafeteria plan of benefits. The employer just pays for them, it doesn't provide them. Both full-time employees and independents could benefit from a model like this. I posted a concept paper at http://www.flexiblebenefits.org if anyone's interested in the idea. (Yes, I know, the website itself sucks. Just read the paper, okay? ;-)
  • Another approach is to become a statutory employee of a company who does your tax withholding and lets you participate in pre-tax benefit plans. You would get a W-2 at the end of the year instead of a 1099 form. One example of this is the Professional Association of Contract Employees [pacepros.com]. They still let you call the shots regarding assignments, work hours, etc. but just do the paperwork for you, at a fee of course.
  • I was quoted nearly $400 per month for a family of three. My pre-existing excuse for the jacked premimium? I'm 6' and 265lbs. Wife and kids are healthy.

    To the moon!
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  • I keep thinking that it would be to our benifit to start a guild of contract IT people. We could get group rate health/dental/life insurence and probably have a way to lobby for causes that matter to us.

    I think currently you are SOL.

    The cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • Mine was almost twice that, with a real preexisting condition. That's not a horrible price.
  • Assuming that you are charging a reasonable rate for your services (approx $65/hr) then you only have to work seven hours out of the month to cover this.

    Best bet would be to take the insurance company up on the best insurance they have to offer (from your point of view) and pay the extra, consider it as working one day for benefits. Or, possibly, also consider pre-paid legal along with the medical. This really takes the strain off when something comes to grief with the medical insurance company. Just make sure they know it.

    Let's see, one day for benefits, three days for mortgage, one day for the car, eight days for taxes...8(

  • by Doco (53938) <Dan@NoSpaM.oelke.com> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @02:17PM (#520170)
    IEEE has a whole series of different finicial programs for members, that includes life, health, dental, liability, etc. insurance.

    I have their life insurance (New York Life is the real company behind the IEEE offer) that came in at less than 1/3 the cost of any open market policy I could find. I looked at their health insurance and it seemed reasonable to me at the time, but I didn't need it as my current employeer has an ok plan.

    Check out the details for the IEEE health plan [ieeeinsurance.com] for yourself. I see that you must have been a member for at least 2 years, which means it doesn't help you much if your aren't already a member.
  • by John Murdoch (102085) on Wednesday January 10, 2001 @02:55PM (#520171) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    In addition to traditional fee-for-service health insurance, you may want to look into a Medical Savings Account. There are substantial advantages to an MSA for people who are self-employed--chief among them that you are paying for your health coverage with pre-tax dollars, but also you are able to keep a significant portion of what you pay.

    Here's how it works: a Medical Savings Account consists of two parts:

    • A high-deductible insurance policy (typical deductible is $3,500-5,000 for a family)
    • An investment account

    You pay a relatively low premium for the insurance policy, and you pay a monthly "contribution" into your investment account. Major expenses are paid (after the deductible) by the insurance policy--but the minor expenses, routine medical care, etc. are paid from the investment account.

    As I mentioned above, the advantages for somebody who is self-employed (or who works for a small company) are substantial:

    • Both premium payments and contributions to the investment account are paid with pre-tax dollars.
    • Any amount left in your investment account is yours to keep. The amount in your investment account can grow as large as you wish--and interest or investment income on that money is tax-deferred.
    • Once you reach age 65, you can withdraw funds from your investment account, just like an IRA.
    • You are not limited to an insuror's list of medical conditions--you can use your investment account funds to pay for any medical expense (including, for instance, eyeglasses for your kids).

    The down side of having an MSA is that you can find yourself being taken advantage of by doctors--because they are used to overbilling and then just taking what the insurance company pays. Since you don't have Blue Cross/Blue Shield to say, "the reasonable and customary amount is $48, so that's all we're paying" you can occasionally get popped for a $250 visit to the doctor where the family behind you with traditional insurance pays a fraction of that. Most of the time you can negotiate--but every now and again you'll stumble across a jerk who gets greedy.

    To find out more, check out Golden Rule Insurance Company [www.golden...argetblank] or the Internal Revenue Service publication 969 [irs.gov].

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