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A Freelancer's Guide to Health Insurance

Maybe you're a seasoned freelancer or maybe 2022 is finally the year you're going to make your side gig full-time. You'd be joining an estimated 7 million Canadians who are planning to take the leap to self-employment in the next two years. Whatever your situation, when you work for yourself, there are a few things to know about health insurance. For starters, what do you need, where do you find it, and how much will it cost? 

Freelancing may make up for in freedom what it lacks in group insurance benefits, but if you're looking to replace employee benefits, you probably want answers to these questions. Luckily, we've answered some of the most common questions about finding health insurance as a freelancer. 

Can freelancers get health insurance?

Of course. Many people associate health insurance with either provincial insurance or group benefits offered by an employer. But individual health and dental plans are available for freelancers, contract workers, self-employed professionals, small business owners, and employees without workplace benefits.

Do I really need health insurance in Canada?

Yes. Provincial health insurance doesn’t cover prescription medication, dental, vision care, professional therapies, and much more. That’s where private insurance comes in. If you’re thinking “I don’t spend that much on all that now”, reframe your thinking. Insurance isn’t meant to be a chequing account for existing expenses. While it helps with those, its real value is in protecting you against future health expenses. Insurance allows you to transfer the financial risk associated with future health issues to insurance companies rather than take it all on yourself. Read more on why it’s not a good idea to rely only on your emergency fund.

What's included in health insurance plans available to freelancers?

Plan designs vary. Some comprehensive plans include everything while others are more bare bones. Coverage options that include drugs, dental, vision, emergency travel health, semi-private hospital, massage, physiotherapy, psychology, nursing care, medical equipment and more are available. See what Health Plus covers here.

How much does health insurance cost for a freelancer?

Your monthly rate will vary depending on whether you opt for single, couple, or family coverage, the type of plan and whether you are in good health when you apply. Health Plus plans start at $89/month and include dental, drug, professional therapists, travel health coverage, and extras.

Where can a freelancer find health insurance in Canada?

Many Canadian companies sell plans that are available to freelancers. Some are only available when you are leaving a group insurance plan. These plans can offer great value if you have existing health issues, but it’s always a good idea to shop around.

 Health Plus Priority and Optimum plans were designed specifically for freelancers and business owners. These plans are exclusive to Health Plus, but most other insurance plans can be purchased either through an independent broker or direct from the insurance company. The advantage with a broker is you can talk to a licensed advisor who can give you advice about multiple plan options. Luckily Health Plus is also a broker so we can help you compare plans from the big name companies so you find the best plan for you.

What should a freelancer look for in health insurance?

In general, you want a health insurance plan that provides good value, with stable rates, high coverage maximums, and no low per visit limits. As health care costs rise, high drug limits are important, even if you don’t take medication now. As a freelancer, you’ll also want a few extras. Portability, so you can take your plan between contracts or if you start a new business. No contracts, in case you need to cancel in the future if you get benefits through a partner or new job. Extras that can help support you as you build your business.

Can I get health insurance even if I have a pre-existing condition?

Yes, you can. 'No medical questions' or guaranteed acceptance plans do exist. They can be a great choice if you have a chronic condition or ongoing drug expenses. However, if you qualify a medically underwritten plan is almost always the best option. A Health Plus advisor can help you compare your options.

What benefits are available for mental health?

Every year 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness. And entrepreneurs report facing unique strain. Finding the right support is critical. Many insurance plans, including Health Plus plans, include coverage for psychologists and social workers, as well as extras to support your mental wellness. All Health Plus Priority and Optimum plan members have access to Lifeworks Employee Assistance Program, which includes free virtual counselling and online resources.

Can I just get dental coverage?

Some ‘dental only’ plans do exist. However, they are typically poor value. Premiums are high and offer little to no protection for other large health expenses you may face in the future.

Is health insurance tax-deductible?

Yes! If you work for yourself the cost of health insurance is fully tax-deductible. This means your actual net cost is lower than your stated monthly rate.

Should freelancers have disability insurance?

It’s a good idea when you work for yourself. Disability insurance offers a monthly tax-free payment to replace some of your lost income if you are unable to work due to illness or injury. It helps provide a safety net that is often lacking when you run your own business.

Do I need life insurance?

Life insurance is an important purchase. It helps protect your loved ones financially in case of the worst-case scenario. Most often the decision to buy life insurance is spurred by a life change, such as getting married, having a child, buying a house, or starting a business.

An advisor can help you figure out your specific needs. And, luckily in many cases life insurance is less expensive than you might think.

Running a business is both stressful and rewarding. Insurance helps put your mind at ease about future health expenses and the right plan offers perks so you're at your best. Still have questions? We're here to help

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