How do I: Get health insurance?

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Topic: Insurance
Who is affected: Consumers at any Life Stage
What you’ll need: Time to research, patience

What you need to know

Escaping the cubicle universe can be a blast, but the bloom of self-employment also contains a thorn: finding health insurance. Where should you start?

Ensure the best rate possible by following these steps:

First, consider the roads most traveled. Many entrepreneurs transition to private health insurance by taking advantage of the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, more commonly known as COBRA.

COBRA is a program that allows employees to remain on their old company’s insurance plan for up to 18 months after leaving the job.

Other entrepreneurs find that piggybacking onto their spouse’s insurance plan is the cheapest and easiest option.

There are also individual insurance plans. Although they’re often pricier and less convenient than group plans, a little homework and comparison shopping may help you find a cheaper plan.

Here are several questions to ask when policy-shopping:

  • Will your doctors/hospitals be included?
  • Is the carrier licensed in your state?
  • Can you afford the policy’s premiums?
  • Does the policy cover items you need, such as vision or dental?
Finding health insurance is just one challenge of self-employment. Plug in the appropriate amounts in the boxes below, click the “Go” button and find out how much you’ll owe in self-employment taxes.
Net farm income/loss
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Employer paid income

When you shop for insurance, start by checking out your state insurance department Web site. Another good resource is the National Association of Health Underwriters site. Also, talk to friends and family — a trusted recommendation is worth its weight in gold.