Getting Health Insurance as an Expedite Owner-Operator
The Affordable Care Act -- also known as "Obamacare" -- has been a political lightning rod since it was passed into law in 2010. But for trucking owner-operators, the ACA may actually be making health insurance more "affordable." At least that has been the case for veteran expediters Linda and Bob Caffee.
When they received notice that the health insurance company they had been with for about 10 years was going out of business, the Caffees explored other options. They started working with an agent at PayPlans & Benefits, a Falmouth, Mass. firm that specializes in health insurance for truckers through the ACA healthcare exchange. The agent walked the Caffees through the plan options that would best fit their healthcare needs and ran the numbers to see how much in tax credits and subsidies the Caffees could qualify for.
The result: The Caffees found a policy that provides more coverage, with a substantially lower deductible, for a savings of nearly $800 per month.
"The thing that's different for truckers -- specifically owner-operators -- is that the government's premium discounts are based on adjusted gross income, which is usually very low," says Linda Caffee.
Adjusted gross income is the amount left over after paying your business expenses, accounting for your personal deductions, and paying your taxes. So, the lower your adjusted gross income, the greater the discounts or government subsidies to help cover your insurance costs.
And according to data from PayPlans & Benefits, enrollees in subsidized ACA-compliant health insurance save an average of 66-percent off the price of an unsubsidized plan.
"We've taken our monthly savings and are putting it into our retirement plan," says Caffee.
Researching Health Plans
If you're not currently insured or would like to explore more plan options, where can you go to shop for an ACA-compliant health plan?
You can search plans directly through your state exchange if it has one set up (see: http://kff.org/health-reform/state-indicator/state-health-insurance-marketplace-types/) or the federal government exchange at https://www.healthcare.gov/. Or, you can go through third-party licensed agents and marketplaces, such as:
- The National Association of Independent Truckers (NAIT) "Trucker Insurance Exchange" at https://tie.connectedhealth.com/
- PayPlans & Benefits "Insurance for Transportation Contractors" at http://www.payplansandbenefits.com/insurance-for-transportation-contractors.
Enrolling in a New Plan
When can you enroll in an ACA-compliant health plan?
Open enrollment for 2016 ended on January 31st, 2016. However, you can purchase health insurance outside of open enrollment if you have a "qualifying event," such as moving to a new state, certain changes in your income, or changes in your family size. (For more information on qualifying events, see https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/qualifying-life-event/.)
What if you don't purchase health insurance?
The penalty in 2016 for not being insured is 2.5 percent of family income. Or a lower flat dollar penalty may be applicable based on your income. (For details, see https://www.healthcare.gov/fees/fee-for-not-being-covered/.)
So, if you've avoided purchasing a health plan because of the historically high costs, at least explore whether you might qualify for government tax credits and subsidies. Give it a try; you have nothing to lose. You might be pleasantly surprised to find an affordable plan that could give you and your family greater peace of mind.
To learn more, check out these resources: