One of the drawbacks of being a free-lancer really hits home when you get sick with things like viruses, back pain, or the flu. You know – the kinds of things that keep people who work for a company home for a day or two while they recover. I was feeling pretty rocky yesterday and I even rescheduled an interview because of this bug. I’m also lucky because I do have health care insurance. But, I worry about my freelancing friends who just can’t take time off to be sick.
They have the normal costs of living to pay and many of them are already working hours that would make most people give it up and find a company to get a paycheck. But, they don’t do what they do for a paycheck. They do it because they love it and they wouldn’t want to do anything else. Even if it does mean working with the flu or pain.
Now here is where my worry part comes to play. I know that way too many of them don’t have any health insurance. And, not because they like to gamble with their health and financial future. They just can’t afford the premiums that insurance companies charge the self-employed. They also can’t afford to pay for many tests that they sometimes really, really need to have done. A good friend was told she needed an MRI last year. She was in serious pain and was unable to find relief through things she could afford to pay for like massage and acupuncture. When I heard how much she was going to have to pay for it I knew there was no way she could afford it. Shop around yourself. It was going to cost her thousands of dollars. She did without it. She tells me the pain gradually got much better. But, what if it hadn’t? What if it had been something significant?
Now Google the cost of an MRI paid for privately in any other developed nation. A $2500 spinal MRI in the US will cost you $500 in the UK. In fact, the costs are so much lower in other countries for medical procedures that there is an entire medical tourism industry.
We are facing a health care crises that is unimaginable. 17 Million people identify as self-employed, 15 Million are unemployed, and 12 Million have given up looking for work or are working part-time with no health care. The current number of total uninsured Americans stands at around 60 Million and many of them are self-employed working harder than anyone on Wall Street ever worked only to live knowing that one serious illness or accident could be devastating. How many of these people are our friends and colleagues?
If you’re self-employed, a freelancer, etc. how do you deal with your health care? What would happen if you needed expensive tests or procedures? What can we do about this?