5 Best Places to Find Insurance for Freelancers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 million workers are self-employed in the country. Being a self-employed worker can be liberating, but it also means you’re your own HR department, too. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding affordable insurance options.

With a traditional employer, you had a limited array of health insurance options, and you might’ve had access to a team that could help you understand the paperwork and process. Now that you’re on your own, you’ll also have to navigate this maze on your own.

It won’t be easy, but we can help lessen the burden a bit by helping you learn about your options.  

Pros Cons
Online Insurance Marketplaces Lots of options to choose fromCan get personalized help in finding the right plan Sellers might be biased and offer a plan that’s not right for you
Affordable Care Act Marketplaces Might qualify for subsidies to lower costCan find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid/ CHIP/ other low-cost insurance optionsGuaranteed coverage for essentials Can only enroll at certain times of year or after certain eventsCosts can be high if you don’t qualify for subsidies
Short-term Health Insurance Low cost Doesn’t cover essentialsDoesn’t cover pregnancy Doesn’t cover pre-existing conditionsMight not available in your state
Through a Spouse or Domestic Partner Low cost  Not available for single peopleMight have to pay more than your spouse/partner for coverage
Freelancers Union or Other Associations Might be able to get lower rates through a group plan Might not have as many options available

1. Online Insurance Marketplaces

Insurance marketplaces (also known as “brokers”) are for-profit companies that sell Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange plans and non-ACA plans. It provides you with more information and assistance than going through the ACA exchange on your own. There’s no cost to use an online marketplace; instead, it gets a kickback from the insurance companies when it sells you an insurance plan. 

That kickback can be up to an average of $20/month depending on where you live, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s not chump change so brokers might present you with biased estimates. When you’re working with a broker, it’s important to ask them whether they’re presenting you with all of the options available on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and if not, why not. 

PolicyGenius

PolicyGenius is one of the largest and easiest-to-use online insurance marketplaces. In addition to health insurance, you can also get quotes for life insurance, homeowners insurance, auto insurance, renters insurance, disability insurance, and more. 

To learn about insurance plans that might be right for you, choose the type of insurance you’re looking for on the homepage. Then, enter your zip code, county, and email address to see the list of plans and carriers available to you.

eHealth

eHealth offers health insurance plans from over 180 companies. It’s also heavily focused toward Medicare and can help you figure out your options for this unique health insurance program. To see an immediate list of insurance plan options, select the type of insurance you’re shopping for and enter your zip code.

HealthMarkets.com

Speaking to a live agent can help you better understand which plan is right for you. But if you’re not ready to take that step, HealthMarkets offers a short survey instead. Once you’ve completed the survey, it compares your responses to multiple plan coverages and generates a “FitScore” for each plan that’s tailored to you. The FitScore can help you easily see which insurance plan fits your needs the best.  

2. Affordable Care Act Marketplace

The Affordable Care Act is the biggest government initiative in recent years that tries to address how people — including freelancers — get affordable health insurance. The ACA created a central health insurance marketplace that’s run by either your state government or the federal government, depending on where you live.

Your options on the ACA marketplace are graded according to a set of metal tiers:

Plan tier 2020 average premium1 Insurance company pays… You pay…
Bronze $331 60% 40%
Silver $442 70% 30%
Gold $462 80% 20%
Platinum $501 90% 10%
1This is a nationwide average for the cheapest plan at each tier level. 

It’s important to note two things here: first, the cost varies widely across the country. For example, the cheapest Bronze plan for one person costs an average of $219 in Rhode Island, but $552 in West Virginia. 

Second, these numbers might shock you. If you’re a four-person family in West Virginia, for example, paying $2,208 per month on health insurance might seem like the opposite of affordable, and it is. 

But one of the best features of the ACA is that depending on your income, you might qualify for subsidies that’ll help bring your actual cost down to an affordable level. You’re also notified if you qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, or other free or low-cost health insurance options.

To sign up for an ACA plan you’ll need to wait until the open enrollment period each November through December for plans that start in the new year. If you have a “qualifying life event” (see below), you can also sign up at any time:

  • If you lose your existing coverage (e.g. if you lost your job)
  • If you have a change in your household (e.g. getting married)
  • If you move to a new area
  • If you have a big income change, become a member of a tribe or become a U.S. citizen, leave AmeriCorps service, or leave jail or prison

3. Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance plans are different from ACA plans because they’re not as tightly regulated. For example, they generally don’t cover preventative healthcare like annual doctor’s visits, pregnancy care, or prescription drugs. 

They also come with high deductibles and carriers impose dollar limits for payouts. This type of plan is best as a temporary stop-gap measure for protection, if you get really sick or have a major accident while you’re in-between better insurance plans. 

In fact, these plans are so consumer-unfriendly that they’re banned or heavily regulated in many states. Short-term health insurance plans are usually around 20% of the cost of a low-level Bronze plan, according to one Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But remember: if you need to see a doctor, it might cost you a lot more than if you purchased a full health care plan from the ACA marketplace or another source. 

4. Through a Spouse or Domestic Partner

Not everyone has this option, but if you do, it’s generally the best way to get insured as a freelancer. Employers can provide health insurance at affordable rates for their employees, and often, their employee’s family members, too. 

You might have to pay an additional fee to be included on your spouse or partner’s plan. But it’ll usually be much cheaper than finding your own plan through a broker or the ACA exchange without a subsidy. If you’re not married but you’re in a partnership you can check with your partner’s employer to see what’s required to qualify as a “domestic partner” for insurance purposes. 

5. Freelancers Union or Associations

Professional associations can often get similar discounts that employers receive. The Freelancers Union (an unofficial union), for example, offers options for health insurance, vision insurance, and dental insurance for freelancers. 

Like so many other insurance-related rates, the actual cost of these plans depends on where you live. The Freelancers Union doesn’t charge a membership fee, but other organizations do. If so, you’ll need to weigh the cost of a membership fee against any potential savings you might get from buying health insurance through an association.

Finding the Best Health Insurance for You 

The biggest factor to consider when shopping for health insurance plans as a freelancer is what your needs are. 

For example, if you’re trying to start a family, you’ll want to avoid short-term health insurance plans that don’t cover pregnancy expenses. If you have a chronic illness and need health care more frequently, choosing a “cheap” Bronze health insurance plan can actually cost you more over the long run because these plans offer minimal coverage. 

It’s not always easy to know what kind of health services you’ll need in the upcoming year. Some events, like a major car accident, can’t be planned. But if you focus on the kind of health services you need today, and compare multiple health insurance plans from different carriers, you’ll find there are many health insurance options for freelancers. 

The post 5 Best Places to Find Insurance for Freelancers appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Every State

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the new programs and provisions in the second stimulus package.

For the first time nationally, independent contractors and gig workers can receive unemployment benefits — through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Millions of Americans have relied on this program since it was created by the first stimulus package in March 2020.

Depending on your state, PUA effectively expired on Dec. 26 or 27. At the 11th hour, lawmakers rallied to pass a second stimulus package, extending the program for 11 weeks. However, some states had to pause making PUA payments as they implemented the new rules.

The Penny Hoarder looked at the application process in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. when the program was first created. We compiled the information into an interactive map that shows you how to file in each state, then updated the information based on new provisions laid out in the second stimulus package.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

What Is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

  • How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA
  • A 50-State Interactive Map to Help You Apply for PUA
  • Documents Needed to File for PUA
  • This $300 boost is known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

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    How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA

    Initially, the CARES Act authorized PUA payments for a maximum of 39 weeks. The second stimulus package extended PUA to 50 weeks total — or 11 extra weeks.

    PUA now sunsets on March 14, 2021, unless extended by Congress and the Biden administration. Those who haven’t exhausted their PUA benefits as of March 14, 2021, may continue receiving benefits until April 5, 2021.

    One new and notable limitation: PUA used to be available retroactively as far back as January 2020. The new stimulus law tightens the window for retroactive PUA payments to Dec. 1, 2020, through March 14, 2021.

    All PUA recipients should be expecting to file more paperwork, too. To curb fraud, the second stimulus deal forces current and new PUA recipients to submit documents related to employment or self-employment, according to the DOL.

    The exact documents needed will be determined by your state agency, which is required to notify you. The deadline to file those documents is March 27, 2021. Defer to your state’s deadline if different.

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    How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, State by State

    Our interactive map includes PUA filing instructions for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

    Based on The Penny Hoarder’s analysis, 35 states and D.C. process PUA applicants using the same application for general unemployment. Only 15 states have separate PUA applications.

    Here’s how we broke it down on the map.

    General Unemployment

    To determine PUA eligibility, most states funnel applicants through the Unemployment Insurance system first. Those states require you to file two applications: state unemployment first, then PUA.

    In such states, you must get denied Unemployment Insurance (UI) before applying for PUA. Only a handful of states have one streamlined, general unemployment application that determines your eligibility for both PUA or regular benefits.

    For simplicity — and because in both instances your first step is filing a general unemployment claim — both methods are categorized as “general unemployment (UI)” on the map, in dark  blue.

    To see if you need to file two applications or one streamlined version, click your state on the map for specific filing instructions.

    PUA

    States marked in light blue have a PUA application separate from the regular Unemployment Insurance system. If you are a resident of one of these states, you can file for PUA directly so long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

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    Documents Needed to File for PUA

    If you’re ready to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you’ll need to gather several types of identification- and income-related documents.

    Your state may require a few additional documents, but here’s an overview:

    • State-issued ID card.
    • Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number.
    • Mailing and residential address (if different).
    • Bank account information for direct deposit, otherwise your benefits will arrive via a prepaid debit card or check.
    • Tax return: Form 1040, Schedule C, F and/or SE.
    • As many income statements as possible: bank receipts with deposit information, 1099 forms, W-2s, paycheck stubs, income summaries and business ledgers.

    Income statements and related documents are crucial to proving how and when the coronavirus affected your earnings. For freelancers and independent contractors, it may be difficult to compile everything. Include as much as possible.

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    Pro Tip

    Depending on which gig app you use and how much you earned, you may not have received any 1099 income forms in the mail. In that case, log on to the app and download your income statements.

    Expect Delays

    Due to new rules outlined in the second stimulus package, state labor departments are once again scrambling. Hiccups should be expected while applying for, asking about or submitting documents related to PUA. Many gig workers and independent contractors warn of website crashes, unavailable customer service, confusing questionnaires and more.

    Perseverance is key.

    Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

    Source: thepennyhoarder.com

    These Free TV Apps Will Let You Cut Cable but Keep Content

    As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.

    Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.

    Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.

    And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.

    Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.

    12 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable

    With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.

    Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.

    1. Crackle

    One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.

    For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

    2. Tubi TV

    A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.

    Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 25 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.

    The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”

    Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.

    3. Pluto TV

    Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package

    There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.

    If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.

    The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”

    Pro Tip

    Got a library card? You have access to even more entertainment options (besides the obvious, books). Check out these library apps for free access to movies, TV shows and more.

    Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

    Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.

    Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.

    4. NewsON

    Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.

    Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.

    Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

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    5. Funny Or Die

    The go-to streaming app for comedy programming is Funny or Die. Founded in 2007 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from big names in show business.

    Pro Tip

    In 2018, the Funny Or Die began publishing on Vox Media’s Chorus and now uses the YouTube Player.

    Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded.

    6. PBS Kids

    Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.

    You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.

    Pro Tip

    Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.

    Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets.

    7. Xumo

    Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.

    Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.

    But it also includes more than 160 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies — you can watch the Funny Or Die channel here, too.

    Xumo is available on most smart TVs and Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.

    Pro Tip

    Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.

    8. Crunchyroll

    Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.

    There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”

    The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.

    Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults).

    9. Twitch

    For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.

    Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.

    Pro Tip

    You’re there anyway — why not get paid to play video games? Here are four simple ways to start earning real cash for virtual play.

    While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV.

    While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.

    10. IMDb TV

    Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.

    The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”

    The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.

    It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.

    11. YouTube

    Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.

    Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.

    While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.

    12. Peacock

    NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.

    Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.

    If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.

    Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.

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    Chris Brantner is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

    Source: thepennyhoarder.com

    How to Build a Photo Scanning and Digitizing Side Gig

    As simple as it sounds — and actually is — most people are overwhelmed by the thought of taking hundreds or even thousands of photos and organizing them into searchable, digital files.

    Then there are the videos filmed on various versions of clunky cameras over the decades.

    Perhaps the most daunting version of unorganized photographic memories are slides. Once the butt of so many jokes about boring dinner parties, now they are covered in dust with no hope of ever seeing the light of a projector again.

    Well, anyone armed with a $229 scanner and a computer can make searchable digital files of photos and slides. To turn videos into digital files, it takes the original camera they were filmed with or a VCR, an $87 adapter and a computer.

    Here’s how to make photo scanning and digitizing your new side hustle.

    Five years ago, professional photo curator Sabrina Hughes decided she could make a business out of helping people organize their photos, videos and slides. Her company, PhotoXO, has a compelling slogan: “Show your photos the love they deserve.”

    Her years as a photographer, plus a graduate degree in art history and experience as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla., combine to make her an astute photo archivist. But all of this expertise and experience is not required.

    “There’s a certain point when I’m not doing anything you can’t figure out on your own,” she said. “A college student or really anyone could do this to make extra money.”

    Hughes offers a self-paced online class called Disaster to Done for $297, which includes lifetime access to course materials. But she’s also sharing her tips with The Penny Hoarder.

    Get the Right Equipment

    • Scanner. There are hundreds of scanners out there, but she prefers the Epson v600, which sells for $229.
    • Video adapter. Hughes uses the Elgato Video Capture for digitizing VHS tapes. It can be bought online for $87.
    • Storage. “When I first started out, I was giving everything back on hard drives,” Hughes said. “I was trying to get away from DVDs, since most computers don’t even play those anymore.” She then offered flash drives filled with the photos. Though they are also becoming less common, this is still probably the best tool for beginners. Hughes now uploads everything to her website, which offers permanent storage.
    • Software. Hughes uses Adobe Lightroom ($119), which enables her to label photos so they can be searched and has photo editing functions. Software isn’t required to organize unlabeled photos into folders, however.
    A stack of old black and white photographs sits on a person's desk.

    Develop and Perfect Your Process

    The first step to starting your photo scanning business is setting aside a space in your home. It can be as small as a corner of your bedroom or a desktop if an actual office or spare room isn’t possible.

    Next, create a storage system for clients’ photos and video tapes while your work is in progress. Of course clear boxes that stack are great, but they come with a cost. Cardboard shipping boxes work just as well. Place white adhesive labels on the ends with the name of the client and the date the work started. You can place new labels over these when one project is done and the next client’s photos go into the boxes.

    To digitize photos and slides, scan each one with the scanner to upload it to your computer. Make files for certain years or topics such as “1970s beach trips” or “kids’ birthday parties.” Drag and drop the photos into the appropriate file.

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