How do most massage therapists shop for health insurance?
When you work for a big company, getting health insurance is a breeze. You sign up for one of the options they give you, and you’re covered. But if you’re a massage therapist who is self-employed or who is contracted as a 1099 employee, getting insurance is a tedious and expensive process. Why are massage therapists so severely underserved in the world of health insurance?
The biggest and most obvious reason, as mentioned above and as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that the vast majority of this niche service industry is self-employed. From an employer point of view, a new massage therapist may take several years to fill up a book of clientele, and this leads to frequent scheduling gaps for their new hires. So to avoid staffing inefficiencies, most massage therapy employers reduce their costs and liability by only hiring therapists as independent contractors (who are not protected with guaranteed hours).
And surprisingly, this actually works out well in a lot of ways. Massage therapists are a unique breed, and a personal touch to their delivery of care is what allows many of these gifted healers to thrive in business. So while a self-employed massage therapist may not be able to guarantee ‘normal’ hours through an employer, the freedom of scheduling flexibility and the control over a unique brand or service are actually preferred by therapists much of the time.
But what cannot be denied amongst massage therapists is the fact that self-employment falls short when it comes to offering proper healthcare benefits. Contracted massage therapists simply have no bargaining power, and that is why they are frequently forced into deceiving non-group policies, just so that they can say they have health insurance.
To elaborate, the types of non-group policies that are available to self-employed massage therapists come with a high price tag in terms of monthly premiums. And then the worst part is… Overpaying for a policy doesn’t even guarantee good coverage!
This is a painful reality that can only be realized over time unfortunately, but insurance carriers are notorious for ‘squeezing’ individual market (non-group) policyholders. For instance, as a contracted massage therapist, it is not uncommon to pay $450-$600 per month per family member for health insurance and to also have your out-of-pocket health expenses throughout the year still exceed what someone with an employer policy (at a similar benefits level) would pay.
As a contracted worker, insurance carriers make you pay upfront because they know they can. And then they also know that any of their denied claims for a non-group policy will not be met readily by an Employer Assistance Program’s (EAP) legal team. Basically, they have very little reason to care about you becoming a dissatisfied member when you do not purchase a policy through your employer, and that is a very scary predicament to be in when it comes to your health.
If you are a self-employed massage therapist, it is a very good idea to discuss your health insurance options with a personal finance expert who has experience navigating free market healthcare. Remember, health insurance is a binding commitment for you and/or your family that can be extremely labor-intensive in the discovery phase. You want to speak with someone who knows specifically how to find lower-cost alternatives for massage therapists.
These types of specialized services for the self-employed workforce in America aren’t necessarily mainstream, but they are becoming increasingly available to help meet a huge market need. Be sure look for exclusive health quotes from reputable services, and start asking some of the tougher questions around this subject matter when you are ready to shop. You will not regret it.