Welcome to Part 3 of our handbook for people who are shopping for insurance. We’re planning several articles in this series, much as we have started publishing our “Ways to Save” series, and we’ll then archive them on the site.
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Shopping for insurance can be baffling. But it follows most of the same rules you follow in any consumer endeavor: Inform yourself. Ask questions. Read the small print. Be sure you know what you’re getting.
If you’ve lost your health insurance, or are low-income, you may be eligible for one or more of the following:
Healthy New York: Part of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, Healthy New York is a viable insurance option for low-income New Yorkers. Many sole proprietors are eligible. There are several plans under the Healthy New York umbrella, including packages for individuals and families, based on income. Read more on New York State’s insurance website.
COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act gives workers and their families who lose health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan. COBRA can be an expensive option, but it’s a sure thing. Read more about on the website for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Group Health Incorporated: The largest nonprofit health insurance provider in New York, GHI has a range of health plans for individuals, families and small businesses. Group Health Incorporated also has several options for low-income New Yorkers, including a partnership with Healthy NY and Medicaid. Learn more at MedHealthInsurance and at Vista Health Solutions.
Options based on profession
The type of health insurance plan you’ll choose depends on pretty much everything, and that includes your profession. If you’re employed full-time, your place of employment may offer health coverage. Many working New Yorkers are either freelancing or self-employed. Below are a range of options.
Pre-existing conditions: If you’ve got pre-existing medical conditions that may prevent you from becoming eligible for other health insurance plans, New York offers a program called NY Bridge Plan. More information can be found on GHI’s website.
Student Insurance: Many colleges and universities offer health plans for their students. For many full-time students this may be the easiest, cheapest and most practical option. The services will often be performed at the campus’ medical center or an affiliate, and may cost more if you choose to see a doctor off-campus. If you are a college student, contact your school for information about options.
Freelancers: Freelancers Union, a support platform for freelance writers, artists and entrepreneurs, offers several different health insurance plans, including both high and low deductibles. You’re eligible for health insurance if you are a freelancer, sole proprietor, independent contractor, consultant or temporary worker, or are self-employed or employed part-time. Here’s the breakdown of insurance plans offered by Freelancers Union.
Artists: Artists are eligible for health insurance coverage through several different avenues. Fractured Atlas is a non-profit dedicated to providing low-cost health insurance coverage to artists and those working in the creative industry. Find out more on their website.
Unions: Those working in the entertainment industry — actors, theater technicians, filmmakers — can often join unions that have health insurance plans. Examples: the American Federation of Theater and Radio Arts, the Actors Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Musicians Local 802.
These unions often require members to have worked a certain number of union hours, or earned a certain amount of money working a union job, in order to qualify. If you already belong, check out your union’s website for other health insurance coverage options.
If you own a small business, you might want to pick a group coverage plan for you and your employees. A small business is defined as a business employing 2-20 employees, on average. Some plans aren’t available for sole proprietors, some are; some limit coverage to employers of 50 or fewer people.
In New York City, the Chambers of Commerce in four of the five boroughs offer health insurance for small businesses.
The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Atlantis Health Providers, includes Freedom or Liberty networks, out of network coverage and no referrals to see specialists. Visit the website for more information
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Group Health Inc., offers small businesses two different low-cost insurance plans called Brooklyn Health Works. For more information, check the website
The Bronx Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Aetna, Atlantis and United Healthcare-Oxford, offers small businesses a range of low-cost health insurance plans. For more details, click here
The Queens Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Aetna, Freedom-Oxford, MVP and Empire, offers a variety of health care packages for small businesses. Read more here.
For more information:
Next: Government-subsidized options.