|No matter how attentively you care for your body, there is no real way to prevent yourself from developing some type of medical condition. Take chronic back pain, for example: according to the American Chiropractic Association, between 80 – 90% of the American population experiences this common discomfort each year. For most people, this will simply mean a trip to a doctor or chiropractor, but if you are a freelance employee, this can be more complicated. After all, studies show that Americans spend a total of $50 billion on back pain treatments every year, and many freelancers are uninsured.
This problem was one of many that the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, sought to correct. However, accessing this coverage can be difficult due to confusing deadlines, different protocols for certain states, and the language of the health plans themselves. Fortunately, for some freelancers, this ordeal may have just become slightly easier: the San Francisco health marketplace Stride Health recently announced a partnership with the on-demand courier service Postmates. This deal will help Postmates’ freelance messengers quickly find affordable health insurance.
Stride Health offers a recommendation engine that is designed to appeal to users with mobile devices. The program uses a person’s submitted information and an algorithm to predict their total health care expenses for the next year, which it uses to match them with plans compatible with their current doctors. Throughout the year, the service also gives users information on health benefits and using their health plan. Stride claims the sign-up process can take ten minutes or less, and is extremely popular with smartphone users. Because of these benefits, the health marketplace has formed relationships with companies like Uber and TaskRabbit; Uber drivers can even connect with the Stride recommendation engine and buy insurance through their Uber driver app.
Now, Postmates will be using a similar program. Stride reports that their service has been integrated into the company’s daily operations, allowing employees to quickly access affordable coverage and find access on using their health plan in different situations. They also announced that they will be launching a referral program, which will reimburse the premiums of Stride freelancers who refer others to the service. Stride’s CEO, Noah Lang, said that members who refer three new users will receive a month of insurance coverage paid by his company. Meanwhile, those who refer 10 new customers will receive an entire year of paid coverage.
But as positive as this agreement will be for Postmates’ employees, the original problem still remains: most freelancers in the United States do not have health insurance or the information to choose the best health plan. Federal health plans are available, but the sign-up period for coverage in 2015 ends February 15 in most states. As a result, freelancers and other uninsured Americans will need to hurry.
If you’re rushing to pick a health plan, experts recommend focusing on three factors: price, health, and customer service. How much can you afford to pay each month? Are you healthy, or do you have certain medical needs, such as a preexisting condition? Does the provider you are considering offer helpful information when you contact them, and are they accepted by your current doctor? Answering these questions can help you determine which premiums, plans and providers will work for you. But whatever you do, don’t try to go another year without healthcare: Americans who choose to forgo coverage will have to pay 2% of their income, or $325 per adult, in addition to the expensive medical costs incurred by an injury or illness.