Trade workers are often classified as self-employed or contract employees. While this designation has benefits and increases the opportunities to work in a variety of fields and locations, this group is among the least likely to carry health insurance. They are also not covered by workers’ compensation.

Health insurance is important for your and your family, even if you are relatively healthy. It covers routine medical expenses like check ups, lab testing, and childhood immunizations. In the case of an emergency, health insurance protects you from high medical costs associated with urgent care, surgery, x-rays, and more. While it is not mandatory in the United States to have health insurance, it can greatly decrease the financial burden of medical care.

There are several options available to obtain health insurance depending on your employment. If you are an employee of a business, you can work with your employer to find health insurance. If you are self-employed (you make money but have no employees of your own or only use contract employees), your options will be different.

Regardless of your employment status, there are ways you can purchase health insurance. These are your options:

  1. Sign up through your employer. If you are a permanent employee of a business that offers health insurance, you can purchase insurance this way. The company will be able to explain your options, deductibles, premiums, and more.
  2. Purchase group health insurance. Some states and insurance companies will sell group insurance to individuals. You’ll have to do some research to find out if this is possible where you live. A quick Google search can tell you if your state is one where you can purchase group health insurance if you are self-employed. You’ll need to talk directly to the insurance company to find out what policies are available in your state.If you work directly with an insurance company, you will be responsible for all the paperwork, claims, and billing. Insurance companies usually have plans that are available to individuals on their website so you can browse and compare policies.
  3. Use an agent to buy health insurance. Health insurance agents have contracts with a wide variety of insurance companies and have dozens of plans to choose from to meet your needs. The agent will do all of the leg work of contacting the companies and understanding the confusing insurance terms. Your choices change depending on the state you live in, and agents will understand what is available in your zip code. They can help you navigate the process of purchasing insurance directly from companies.
  4. Purchase through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Health Insurance Marketplace was established by the Affordable Care Act and offers hundreds of choices for individuals and families. You must sign up during an enrollment period, which is typically in November and December for the next calendar year. If you have a large life change, you may qualify for an exemption to enroll at any time. The website enables you to see all of the plans available in your area and compare the benefits. This is a great solution for those who are self-employed with no employees and contract or freelance workers. There are agents in all areas of the country to help you determine what plans is best.
  5. Check with any membership organizations you are part of for insurance options. If you are a member of a union or other professional organization, they may offer insurance plans or at least be able to provide you with accurate and complete information about what is available to you.

What kinds of health insurance plans can I get?

When you want to sign up for health insurance, there are several types of plans you will be offered. You will need to choose a plan type that is best for you or your employees. Cost is a major factor in deciding what type of plan you want. Insurance companies will charge you premiums, which is what you pay every month to continue your health insurance coverage. A deductible is the amount of money you will pay out-of-pocket for specific services you receive before your insurance starts to pay for services.

These are the most popular types of health insurance you can purchase:

  1. Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) You will be required to have a primary care physician and all referrals need to come from that source. There is a specific network of doctors, hospitals, and clinics you can use and costs are higher if you go to someone outside of that network. Out of pocket costs are generally lower in HMOs.
  2. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) This plan offers more flexibility in the providers you can use. There is a larger network of covered doctors and clinics, and you won’t need a lot of referrals. However, the premiums are higher.
  3. Point of Service (POS) or Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) These are a middle of the road service between an HMO and a PPO, both in access to care and in price.
  4. High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) This is best for those who are usually healthy and don’t have underlying health conditions or take medication regularly. The premium (what you pay monthly) is very low, but the deductible (what you pay for services) is very high.
  5. Fee for Services (FFS) You have lots of flexibility and a very small premium. However, you will usually pay for all medical care at the time of your visit and then submit the paperwork for reimbursement.

When signing up for a health insurance plan, you will have the options to add services such as dental, vision, and accident insurance. These are usually separate plans that carry additional costs. Assess your needs and what kind of medical care you typically use to determine what health insurance is best for you and your family.