Best Health Insurance Companies For Self-Employed

How to choose the right health insurance if you’re self-employed

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If you’re self-employed, health insurance could be tricky to navigate. Whether you consider yourself a gig worker, freelancer, independent contractor, or simply your own boss, finding the time and money to address this pressing concern might be in short supply.

If you’re one of the 44 million U.S. citizens who are self-employed, either part or full-time, accessing health insurance can be a barrier to essential medical services. The freedom of working for yourself has downsides, including being responsible for finding adequate, affordable health insurance. 

Having health insurance if you're self-employed means medical expenses won't be nasty surprises. You may fear you can’t shoulder the expense, but you’ll find health insurance options even for low budgets if you do your research. 

This roundup will help you understand your self-employment health insurance options. We compared the price, coverage, availability, and company reputation of 25 health insurance options before deciding on our top four. Read on to find out who was our top picks for self-employed health insurance.

Best Health Insurance Companies for the Self-Employed

Best Health Insurance Companies For Self-Employed
Best Health Insurance Companies For Self-Employed

Best Overall : United Healthcare

United Healthcare

 United Healthcare

Why We Chose It: United Healthcare is our top choice for best overall as their coverage spans all 50 states, and they offer a large array of policies to suit most people.

What We Like
  • Largest provider network in the country

  • Solid reputation

  • Online quotes

  • Smartphone app and telehealth

What We Didn't Like
  • May not cover some locations

  • May be more expensive than competitors

As one of the largest U.S. health insurance companies, United Healthcare was an obvious choice for our best network choice. The United Healthcare network includes more than 1.3 million doctors and 6,500 hospitals and other facilities across the country, so you shouldn’t have difficulty finding local health services.

United Healthcare offers products including individual health insurance, short-term health insurance, dental and vision plans, Medicaid, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, and small-business health insurance.

With an A rating from AM Best, you won’t need to worry about their ability to pay any claims as they are financially stable. 

You can get a quote and buy a plan using the online portal or the ACA Marketplace. You’ll find five coverage levels, from basic through to platinum coverage. Prices were not listed on the company website. Rates are discounted if you add coverage for dental or vision care. 

Although United Healthcare’s policies cost more than some competitors, they offer benefits that you may feel justify the additional expense. These include the unique Sweat Equity physical fitness reimbursement program; you can receive up to $400 a year just for working out.

Best Runner Up : Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente

 Kaiser Permanente

Why We Chose It: Kaiser Permanente earned their place as best runner up choice because although they have excellent ratings, industry strength, unique provider network, and focus on preventative care, the plans are only valid in 8 states and the District of Columbia.

What We Like
  • Online quotations and applications

  • High customer service ratings

  • Provides both insurance and health care

  • Mobile app

  • Good financial standing

What We Didn't Like
  • Must use Kaiser facilities

  • Limited to eight states and the District of Columbia

When you’re responsible for your own income, it’s particularly important to avoid additional healthcare expenses. Kaiser Permanente, our overall winner, provides excellent preventative care benefits to make sure you stay healthy. You’ll enjoy free preventive care, including routine physicals and mammograms with Kaiser plans. 

Non-profit Kaiser Permanente sells a range of health insurance policies suitable for self-employed individuals. Depending on your situation, you can choose from their Medigap, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, prescription drug plans, or individual plans. They also offer dental and vision options.

Their affordable plans have different pricing tiers, plus the option to add a Health Savings Account, and you’re guaranteed top-notch health care in Kaiser facilities.

Kaiser Permanente is different from other traditional health insurance providers in that they are a managed care organization. They operate their network of 39 Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and 719 medical offices, and can entirely control care quality and pricing. 

For these reasons, Kaiser plans consistently rate high for customer satisfaction and affordability. Although Kaiser is not Better Business Bureau accredited, J.D. Power and Associates awards Kaiser top rankings for customer satisfaction.   

Using either the Marketplace or Kaiser’s online portal, you can quote and buy their bronze, silver, gold, and platinum policies. With the bronze and silver plans, there’s the option to add an HSA. You can then use these tax-free contributions to pay for qualified medical expenses like health care, vision, and dental care, or medications.

Their Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans don’t exclude pre-existing conditions or limit renewability. However, you won’t have coverage for services like elective procedures, chiropractic care, or custodial care, as these and some others qualify as exclusions.

In common will other ACA insurance plans, if you buy during open or special enrollment from day 1 through 15 of the month, you’ll be covered from the first day of the next month. If you buy after day 16, the cover starts on the first day of the month after the next, meaning a wait of around six weeks.

If you’re thinking of joining Kaiser, you’ll need to be a resident of California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, or the District of Columbia.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance : Pivot

Pivot

 Pivot

Why We Chose It: Pivot took first place as our best short-term health insurance pick for self-employed as there’s the flexibility to build the ideal policy for you and opportunities to save money with their discount programs.

What We Like
  • Not tied to specific providers

  • 24/7 telemedicine

  • Medication and vision care discounts

What We Didn't Like
  • Must pre-certify emergencies

  • Not available across the country

With almost immediate coverage, the ability to visit any convenient doctor, flexible policy lengths, plus low prices, Pivot is our preferred short-term health insurance choice if you’re self-employed.

Since 2018, Pivot has offered short-term insurance plans underwritten by the Companion Life Insurance Company who has an AM Best financial stability rating of A+ (Superior).  Other offerings include supplemental Insurance, pre-Medicare, Medicare supplement plans, limited Benefit insurance, dental, and vision policies.

Provided you live in Washington D.C. or one of the other 30 states that Pivot operates in, you can quote and purchase a policy online. The quote system allows you to select the features you want to include or exclude from their basic, core, quantum, or epic policies. Policies are renewable for up to 364 days. 

Depending on your options, premiums begin at $99. Your expenses are limited by maximum out-of-pocket costs between $3,000 and $10,000. Annual benefit limits are capped at a maximum of $1 million. You’ll also need to cover coinsurance of 20% or 30% when you receive care. 

Unlike the Marketplace Affordable Care Act policies, plans can exclude pre-existing conditions. Waiting times also differ from Marketplace: It's a five-day wait before health coverage kicks in and 30 days for cancer care.

Best For Families : Oscar

Oscar

 Oscar

Why We Chose It: We chose Oscar as our best for families option because of dedicated child and family-friendly benefits, the cap on family deductibles, and tax-credit eligibility.

What We Like:
  • Prenatal and child care benefits

  • Wellness benefits

  • Cap on family deductibles

  • Can use tax credits

  • Virtual health

What We Didn't Like:
  • Limited to 18 states

  • No AM Best rating

  • No out-of-network option

It can be tricky juggling family life, finances, and being your own boss. If you have a large family, finding affordable health insurance can be challenging. Our best for families option is Oscar, thanks to their pregnancy and child-related benefits, the cap on a family deductible, and the opportunity to use your tax credits. 

When you download the Oscar app, you can quote and purchase policies. The app also provides instant access to your health records, account statements, and telehealth. You can easily talk to a doctor, which is convenient if you have children, as there’s no need to leave the house. 

Oscar has a unique concierge service, which you access through the app. You’re paired with your own care team who will answer any questions and help you access the most affordable care options in your area. Oscar makes health insurance as simple as possible, which is great for those who don’t have employer support.

For a family of four, the lowest price bronze simple plans are around $1,200 monthly with a $7,300 deductible and $8,550 out-of-pocket maximum. Comprehensive gold plans are pricier at $1,700  with a $2,500 deductible and $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum. Bear in mind that the deductible is capped at twice the individual rate, no matter how many dependents you have. 

Oscar complies with the ACA, so they don’t exclude pre-existing conditions, but do exclude any cosmetic procedures, care outside the country, dental and vision care.

Oscar is particularly appealing to families thanks to their free, well-baby, and well-child exams. If you’re a family living in one of the 18 states Oscar covers, their policies are worth considering.

Final Verdict

Being self-employed is rewarding but can be challenging when it comes to finding the right health insurance policy. Our round-up presents options that represent high-quality, flexible, and affordable choices. 

Overall, Kaiser Permanente earned our overall top choice because of its unique provider network and a strong focus on preventative care. United Healthcare is an obvious choice for the best network category, as people in every state and most locations can join a plan. Pivot is the forerunner for our short-term health insurance pick as they provide the flexibility to build policies to suit self-employed people and offer discount programs. Finally, Oscar is our best for families option thanks to their child and family-friendly benefits, the cap on family deductibles, and tax-credit eligibility.

Compare Providers

Best Self-Employed Health Insurance
Insurance provider Why we picked it Monthly premium (average)
Kaiser Permanente Best Overall $400
United Healthcare Best Network $500
Pivot Best For Short-Term Insurance $99
Oscar Best For Families $1,200

FAQs

How Does Health Insurance for the Self-Employed Differ?

Health insurance for the self-employed differs because you alone need to cover the full cost of the premium. Many employed people receive health insurance benefits, with the average employer paying 83% of the total health insurance cost, which averages $7,470.  

If you’re self-employed, you’ll have to fund the almost $10,000 annual cost, also considering out-of-pocket expenses, from your budget.

How Do You Choose Health Insurance When Self-Employed?

Depending on your circumstances, you can generally choose health insurance from one of three places:

  • COBRA: If you’ve recently left employment and prefer to carry on with the same health policy, you have the option to do so but pay the entire premium yourself.
  • Short-term health insurance: You can purchase a plan at any time, lasting up to 364 days. It’s a cheaper option but won’t cover pre-existing conditions and has high out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Affordable Care Act insurance: The ACA offers the broadest range of policies, costing around $500 per month. Plans can’t exclude pre-existing conditions and must be purchased during specific enrollment periods.

It’s wise to shop around and choose a policy that provides the network, coverage, and benefits that appeal the most. 

How Much Does Health Insurance for the Self-Employed Cost?

Health insurance for self-employed can be purchased at various price points. You can expect an average premium of $462 per month by buying ACA insurance through the government’s Marketplace.

A costlier option is continuing employer-sponsored health insurance under COBRA if you become self-employed after leaving employment. You can only do this for 18 months and must pay the full average annual premium.

If you live in a state where short-term health insurance is available, you could buy a policy for around $100.

For people with a low income, Medicaid may be an option. This state-led program offers free or inexpensive healthcare coverage.

What Is Excluded From Coverage?

A policy purchased on the Marketplace cannot exclude pre-existing conditions. However, the same cannot be said for short-term policies that can make their own rules on exclusions. 

It is essential to review the policy wording before making a purchase, in case the exclusions include something that you require coverage for. 

Typical exclusions include:

  • Conditions caused by smoking, drinking, or drug abuse
  • Elective procedures
  • Extreme sports
  • Mental health services
  • Suicide and intentional self-harm

How Quickly Does Coverage Begin?

If you need immediate coverage, in some cases the following day, you should consider a short-term policy to bridge any insurance gap. 

For Marketplace policies, when you enroll in a plan during Open Enrollment or Special Enrollment, coverage begins about 2 to 6 weeks later.

How We Choose The Best Health Insurance Companies for the Self-Employed

We evaluated 25 insurance companies offering self-employment health insurance and assessed a range of factors before narrowing down the selection to the top four categories. 

Monthly premiums and overall pricing were primary factors for consideration because being self-employed could mean periods of economic uncertainty. 

We also looked at online availability, ease of obtaining a quote, range of different policies, coverage, network, options, and added benefits.

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Article Sources
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  2. Oct 08 P, 2020. 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey - Summary of Findings. KFF.

  3. Marketplace Average Benchmark Premiums. KFF.