By Michael Cahill

The freedom of being a freelance photographer comes at a price, literally. Freelancers have no choice but to get health insurance on the individual market, being as they have no employer to provide them with insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) could end up being a very good asset for you as a freelancer depending on the details of your personal situation. In this primer, we’ll discuss some of the basics of the ACA, as well as give you a little bit of advice for picking a plan.

More Benefits, More Viable Options

The essential health benefits are a helpful addition of the ACA to new health insurance plans. They are basically ten categories of benefits that the ACA mandates almost all plans, except for grandfathered ones, to cover. But if you’re looking for a list of exactly what medical services fall into these categories, you are not going to find one as it varies depending on which state you live in. Each state has a benchmark plan for these benefits that serves as the standard for all other plans. To find out your state’s benchmark plan take a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s list.

The Plans Offered On The Marketplace

It doesn’t really matter if you are buying health insurance at healthcare.gov or the state exchanges. In most states, the process will be pretty much the same. After logging-in you will see that there are four big levels of insurance: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The meanings of these metallic names are probably pretty self-explanatory. If you have some money to spend and you want the best coverage possible, platinum plans are the way to go. They charge the highest premiums, but they also cover the largest amount of out of pocket costs. Bronze plans are of course the plans with the lowest premiums that cover the smallest amount of out of pocket costs.

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Via Wikimedia Commons

You Could Qualify For A Tax Credit

The biggest worry for a freelancer buying health insurance is the cost, but if you are eligible for a tax credit, that will definitely help. To be eligible you or your family need to make between 100 percent and 400 of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). If you make near 100 percent of the FPL, it is possible for your tax credit to cover almost the entire premium of a silver plan. To get an estimation of your tax credit, take a look at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator.

Before Getting A Plan…

Prior to buying a plan, you should try to measure exactly how much your current plan costs in terms of its monthly premium and the amount you’ve spent out of pocket for various medical costs. A potential plan that looks like a good choice at first might not be so when you actually sit down and crunch the numbers. If you can come up with an average for your annual medical costs in different categories, such as prescription drugs and doctor’s visits, it should be easy to see how much money a potential plan will save you.

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Barack Obama’s Signature on the Affordable Care Act
Via Wikimedia Commons

Know What Is Going On

Given that the ACA’s launch hasn’t been going so smoothly, alterations to the law down the road wouldn’t be a big surprise. Even if you are someone who isn’t too thrilled with how this law is working out for you, you never know what could happen in the future.

This guide is just a start to what there is to know about the ACA. If you want to know more, keep researching and consider talking to a licensed insurance broker. If anyone knows about health insurance, it is them. After taking stock of your current situation, the next step is obvious: go to the exchanges and see if any of the plans are the right choice for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Cahill is the Editor of the Vista Health Solutions Blog. He writes about the healthcare system, health insurance industry and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealthMike