Ask the cubicle expat: Sniffing out indie health plans

April 19th, 2007

Doctor, I feel faint...Lisa writes: You mentioned LifeWise health insurance at your reading in Lake Forest Park last week. Could you tell me about your experiences with them? Are you happy with the coverage? I am eligible for COBRA once my cubicle job ends, but it is so freakin’ expensive that I am starting to freak out!

Kudos to Lisa for starting to do her health insurance homework. As she’s discovering, COBRA coverage is usually unaffordable for mere mortals. While I’m not an insurance salesman, I was asked at the reading Lisa mentions what policy I use. As I said that night, I use and totally dig LifeWise (available in some western U.S. states).

Having had more insurance policies than shoes and boyfriends combined over the past 15 years, I feel as qualified as any consumer to comment on how my current plan stacks up to others. What I like: The “can’t complain about it” customer service (a novelty for this gal!), the fact that the plan covers chiropractic and naturopathic care, and the fact that every medical practitioner or facility I’ve visited for healthcare over the past few years is covered by this plan. Oh yeah, and that it’s way, way more affordable than COBRA coverage, which I was eligible for after my last temp gig ended in 2006.

If you’re looking for individual health coverage, take a page from Lisa: Don’t stop at doing the price check on sites like eHealthInsurance. Do:

  • Get testimonials from real live people. If you don’t know any with individual coverage, join a networking listserv in your industry (for example, Seattle Writergrrls for Pacific Northwest word nerds) and ask people what carriers they prefer and why. It’s through lists like these that I learned that I was not the only self-employed person totally frustrated by the useless health insurance plan offered by this organization.
  • See if any professional or alumni groups you’re eligible for offer coverage. When I was looking for my latest health plan, I checked into the coverage MediaBistro and the National Writers Union offered before deciding to get my own damn coverage. (MB offered the same plan I’d found on my own, and the NWU coverage was too freaking expensive.)
  • Make sure your fave health care pros are on the plan you’re eyeing. This is always one of the biggest factors for me, right up there with cost of co-payments, percentage covered “in” and “out” of network, and whether or not the plan pays for my glasses and back cracking.
  • Hunker down and work the numbers. Estimate how often you see a doctor each year (barring any unforeseen medical mishaps) and go over your receipts (or calendar entries) for your medical appointments from the past couple of years. It’s the only way to know if a higher deductible, health savings account, or catastrophic (as opposed to “full”) coverage will work for you. Capiche?

Have a question for the Cubicle Expat? Ask away.

Entry Filed under: Ask the Cubicle Expat

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Matt M.  |  December 15th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    p.s. awesome header banner by the way!

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Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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