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Writers just spend their days in dusty garrets, crumple up rough drafts, wait for their next ramen serving, and then wander coffee shops in black turtlenecks and scribble on napkins, right? They don’t have health insurance. They thrive on their tortured genius self, and in the words of Sontag, “The writer is the exemplary sufferer because [they have] found both the deepest level of suffering and also a professional means to sublimate…[their] suffering.” (1962)

healthcare for writersOf course, this is not entirely true. Writers today are stylish. They wave their hands over tablets and smartphones at open mics to read their work. And coffee shops are always fun. But, what about those just-in-case moments? A painful cavity, kidney stone, vision problems, high blood pressure—these are all possible. Dental procedures, healthcare, prescription contacts and medication all come at a cost that could be devastating to a freelance writer on an unpredictable income who doesn’t have health insurance.

Being a writer doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice important things like health insurance. (And food.) If I had not been able to independently find affordable healthcare coverage, I would not have become a freelance writer. I’m a calculated risk taker. I wouldn’t risk not having health insurance. Plus, writing is important to me, as it is for all writers, and I wouldn’t want to risk my freelance writing business after investing so much of my time and myself into it. Just in case something happens, I know I have insurance. November is open enrollment for health insurance plans and I thought it would be a good time to examine health insurance for writers. I purchased an individual health insurance policy that went into effect the day my former employer’s policy ended. I spent months exploring healthcare options for individuals before submitting my resignation and becoming a self-employed writer.

If I had not been able to independently find affordable healthcare coverage, I would not have become a freelance writer.

What do I do for health insurance?

I purchase an individual policy through Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina. There are multiple plans depending on what you prefer your deductible to be, and rates are different for everyone based on age, sex, location, etc. Being a twenty-something female freelance writer in Raleigh, NC, my monthly premium for 2013 will be $160 and my deductible $3,500. If I still lived in New York, I am fairly certain my monthly premium would be in excess of $750. (That was a quote given to me in 2005.)

Co-payments are reasonable. I pay $25 to see my primary care providers and, although I have not yet used them, specialists and urgent care are $50, ER visits $150. (Scroll to my final paragraph about ER costs.)

I also pay an additional $40 per month for BCBS Dental Blue. Two cleanings are included each year with my plan. I have an annual $75 deductible. The policy covers 50% of all major dental treatments.

Health Insurance Options for Writers, Artists, Entrepreneurs

health insurance for writersWhat can you do as a writer who needs health coverage? There are many options. Find information about health insurance for writers here:

  • The Freelancers Union just launched the first-ever medical center for freelancers in Brooklyn.  Freelancers Medical members receive access to primary and preventive care, as well as access to free yoga, meditation, and nutrition classes.
  • The American Society of Journalists (ASJA) offers discounted healthcare insurance for writers as part of their member benefits.
  • The Authors Guild offers health insurance discounts to New York and Massachusetts writers.
  • If you meet certain income requirements, the Writers Guild of America has coverage for members.
  • The National Writers Union offers group dental coverage, discounted prescriptions, and access to individual health plans in parts of New York.
  • eHealthInsurance allows you to compare policies from multiple health insurance companies, pick and choose programs based on deductibles, and also purchase short-term coverage. (Good for freelancers and writers who are working on temporary contracts without benefits.)
  • If you’re married, you can probably get covered (for a fee) under your spouse’s insurance policy.

Changes in Healthcare Costs

Every year my premiums have gone up, as is expected. (Wouldn’t it be lovely if things got cheaper?) For example, in 2010 my monthly premium was $128. As I mentioned above, starting next year it will be $160. Not a tremendous jump after three years. However, looking ahead, myself and other writers will need to make adjustments in order to cover rising rates. (Mayhaps by then a national healthcare plan will be available.)

Last week I received documents for my 2013 policy changes and I noticed that my ER co-payment fee remains the same ($150) for my initial visit to an ER in 2013. After that, every following ER visit during the same year has a $500 co-pay fee. The explanation next to the fee change explains that the number of non-urgent ER visits has risen so much and resulted in unnecessarily high costs that BCBS is trying to deter policy holders from using the ER for non-urgent ailments. I have not been to the ER in 8 years (knocking on every piece of wood in my new apartment right now), but insurance is there…just in case.