- Years ago, people predicted that the United States would become a nation of free agents full of contracts.
- But as a freelance writer trying to make it on US health care, I struggle to see sustainability.
- Unless something changes, our ability to achieve the American Dream is significantly limited.
I never thought much about medicare until I was boned at 50 mph.
The wreckage totaled my car. He deployed all the airbags, shattered all the windows on the left side, and moved the entire engine from the nose of my Honda CR-V. If the driver of the other car had hit me a few inches lower, I probably wouldn’t have been so lucky.
I had had mild back pain for about two months, but the accident tripled it. It was after this that I took my first real visit to a chiropractor and physical therapy clinic, but only paid for two visits before giving up.
The reason? I am a freelance writer.
Health care in the United States affects the independent economy in major ways. A 2018 study showed that more than 40% of all freelancers rated health care as their top concern heading into the upcoming midterm elections. In that same study, more than 41% of respondents said health care benefits were the reason they chose to pair “side jobs” with their full-time jobs rather than becoming fully self-employed.
There are approximately 56.7 million American freelancers today, many of whom are responsible for their personal health costs and insurance. Without employer premiums, which offer reduced rates and bonuses, we are entirely and utterly alone.
Even with Medicare and market government programs, less than one in four freelancers said they purchased insurance in 2019 – and 35% of freelancers choose to overlook healthcare due to high costs and high premiums, which represents an average of $484 per month for a single person. For families and married couples, that number rises to $1,230.
There are credit systems that help freelancers pay for their insurance, as well as a few marketplace programs that attempt to make a difference. But writers have a feast-or-famine lifestyle, which is unable to meet exorbitant healthcare costs. Even published authors are unable to qualify for plans with benefits outside of the insurance market.
Suppose my writing takes off for a year and I can live comfortably. This means that my insurance credits dry up and that I am liable for the entire sum added to my taxes. Insurance credits, like taxes, vary depending on your income bracket. Their purpose is to help pay insurance premiums.
For example, you might only pay half the premium if your income is below a certain threshold. But insurance credits are not the ideal solution you might dream of. If you happen to earn more or less than your declared earnings (which will never be accurate for freelancers), you could be in for a nasty surprise. And if you happen to have only one good month out of a 12-month year, your healthcare resources are still stretched thin.
Keep in mind that the taxes for freelancers are already impressive; the cost includes your income tax plus 15.3% charged for being your own boss. This means that less money can be saved for health care purposes – the higher the deductibles, the more vital care that is not covered by the policy.
If I make less money another year, insurance credits kick in. I may be paying less per month, but I’m still liable for huge deductibles and higher premiums just to access the care I need. need. What if I happen to make a lot of money only in the last month of the year? My credits are exhausted again and I have the devil to pay in the spring.
You might think that neglecting health insurance is an option. I did, for a while. But the pain between my shoulder blades reminds me that it is no longer possible to impart quality health care.
According to statistics, health care costs averaged $11,000 per person in 2018. By 2028, costs are expected to reach $18,000. Where I live the cost for an ambulance is $500 plus $12 per mile to the hospital. Insurance protects us in the event of a disaster, but it will not protect us from the costs that matter.
Writers are not employees. We don’t have set hours, we don’t report to anyone, and we certainly don’t have PTOs. I can’t decide to leave work early on a Friday for a dentist appointment or take a vacation for surgeries. If I can’t make the time and if I can’t get to doctors who need certain types of insurance, I don’t.
I am a freelance writer who has chosen to invest in long-term healthcare. Because of my field and because I live alone, I simply cannot afford to be sick. I do not have access to spousal insurance.
Whether it’s due to scheduled delays or simply paying bills, downtime is a cost I can’t afford. But shelling out hundreds of dollars a month and having to pay thousands more in the event of an accident doesn’t really seem like an alternative.
And if COVID-19 puts me in the hospital, my career is on the verge of the end.
Since the start of 2020, I have submitted more proposals and pitch requests than I can count. I spend two or more hours a day trying to find gigs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that things are drying up. During a pandemic, it’s harder than ever to take the leap of faith into freelancing. In 2020, 28% of freelancers stopped working due to contract cuts, failing job opportunities and limited growth.
As less and less money is saved, I worry more and more about the future of my health in a world that operates with an employer-employee relationship.
A few decades ago, people predicted that the United States would become a nation of free agents, made up of freelancers and contracts. But self-employment is not a growing trend. We are a small part of the workforce that is overlooked and underrepresented. Not many of us are saying anything about our health issues, and as variants of COVID-10 continue to circulate, insurance concerns will continue to grow.
Unless something changes with how writers like me source and access insurance, our ability to achieve the American Dream is significantly limited.
I don’t need much to be happy. Dollar signs and restful nights are a bonus, but not the end of the world. Ultimately, the American dream is the pursuit of self-fulfillment, or what we were meant to do. All I need is my writing, my intelligence and my health.
And if healthcare isn’t there for them, where will freelancers be in a post-COVID-19 world?