Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March
BY Sarah J.F. Braley
HEALTH COVERAGE AT HOME
When you have your own business, make self-insurance job
It’s exciting to begin calling yourself an independent. But
there are so many details to handle setting up the office, finding
clients, networking, insuring the business your own health coverage
might fall through the cracks. Don’t let it.
JUST OUT THE DOOR
If you’ve left a full-time job with benefits, you can continue your
coverage temporarily, thanks to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA), which requires most employers
to offer insurance for at least 18 months after someone leaves the
company. (You are not eligible for the coverage if you are
terminated for “gross misconduct.”)
People who opt to continue their coverage this way find their
costs jumping, because they have to make up for the part their
employer used to pay. For detailed qualifications and the pros and
cons of choosing COBRA, visit www.cobrainsurance.net.
A wide variety of policies are available for individuals. Where to
“Self-employed people can put aside a portion of their salary
tax-free for medical services in medical savings accounts,” says
Larry Akey, a spokesperson for the Health Insurance Association of
America in Washington, D.C. (www.hiaa.org). “They can then buy a policy with a high
deductible to cover truly unanticipated health events.”
Akey offers two pieces of advice. First, find a broker to guide
you through the buying process: “Insurance is a complex financial
product, so get professional advice,” he says.
Second, make sure you know what your policy covers, so when you
get sick or injured, you won’t be surprised by any out-of-pocket
FINDING A BROKER
Before doing the cold-calling, find out what kinds of insurance
products are available in your area. Ask self-employed neighbors
and colleagues in professional organizations about their coverage,
who they bought it from and how happy they are with it.
Next, visit the Web site of the Arlington, Va.-based National
Association of Health Underwriters (www.nahu.org). On the right is the Find an Agent
button. The search returns 20 brokers in your area, if your state
offers this type of service.
Have all the pertinent information ready when you call the
broker: type of insurance you want, whether you want family
coverage and how much you can pay per month.
PAYING A PREMIUM
For comparison, we asked broker David Oscar of Oscar & Assoc.
in West Caldwell, N.J., what is available. He reports there are two
carriers working with New Jersey brokers: Blue Cross Blue Shield
and Oxford Health Plans, both of which offer HMO and indemnity
policies. The state’s individual plans do not include prescription
HMOs cost between $368 and $500 a month, depending on which
office copay you choose ($10, $20 or $30; hospital copays are
roughly 10 times the office amount). Indemnity policies, which have
none of the network restrictions of an HMO, cost between $198 and
$1,700 a month, depending on the deductible and the ratio of the
payout after the deductible is met. For instance, for $198 a month,
there is a $10,000 deductible, and the payout ratio is 50/50.
“Typically, for a single person, you’re looking at $500 a month
for an indemnity product,” says Oscar. “The deductible is $1,000,
with 70 percent coinsurance.”
Oscar adds that if you can prove at least two people are on the
payroll of the company you have started, you can save between 30
and 40 percent and get better benefits.
JOIN A GROUP
Affordable healthcare is offered to members of the National
Association for the Self Employed (www.nase.org). Access-level membership costs $96 a
year; premier resource-level membership is $420.
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