Guest Blog by Mike James
There is no doubt that freelancers make up a significant proportion of the workforce ; it is estimated that there are more than 2 million freelance workers in the UK, and this number is growing. If this is something that you are considering or have just started, there are certainly a number of benefits that make it attractive. However, it is also true that freelancers need to take steps to protect themselves in a way that salaried employees do not need to. One of the most important things that they need is health insurance; here we take a look at why.
No statutory sick pay
If you have only ever worked in a salaried role before, it can be quite a change switching over to working freelance and not least because you don’t have the safety net of sick pay. Firstly, most employers will give you the odd sick day paid at your normal rate if you can’t make it in to work due to illness – this is something that simply is not true for self-employed and freelance workers. If you’re freelance and you can’t do the work, you won’t get paid for it and it is as simple as that. This means that freelancers naturally need to get well as soon as possible in order to get back to work.
The problem is even worse if you suffer an illness or injury that takes you away from work for a long period. Employed workers with illnesses or injuries that keep them off work for a long period are entitled to statutory sick pay, whereas a long term illness for a freelancer simply means longer periods where they cannot get income. To deal with this issue it may be best to opt for health insurance with additional income protection, to keep you secure if you can’t work for a long period.
Faster access to treatment
Of course one of the key reasons for freelancers to get health insurance is the fact that it can provide them with faster access to treatment. In terms of routine operations, NHS waiting lists can be long and it can be very frustrating to wait if you can’t work without the treatment. Being able to get your treatment faster means that you can avoid missing work and losing out on pay.
It should be noted that this isn’t the case for emergency care, and it is always best to call an ambulance if you require urgent medical help as this is not what health insurance is designed for. However, it may be the case that if you use the NHS but they do not offer a specific treatment you can opt to have medical insurance to pay for it.
What it covers
The truth is that just as with any form of insurance, what health insurance covers depends on the company that you take out the policy with as well as which terms you choose. In general, standard policies will cover things like tests, procedures, surgery and care whole you are in hospital, but there are all sorts of restrictions from policy to policy so do make sure that you read through the details carefully so that you understanding what you are getting.
Perhaps the real key to choosing the insurance that you need is to talk to a specialist insurance broker like Flexible Health, who specialise all forms of insurance packages that can be custom-built for the needs of any freelancer. Choose a broker that has experience providing insurance to people in a similar situation to you, rather than a large name insurance provider who are more likely to have complicated issues in their small print.
What it doesn’t cover
Whilst it’s always smart to look through the specifics of policies to establish what it does and what it doesn’t, it’s worth pointing out that there are certain things that health insurance will almost never cover. Pre-existing conditions are usually never covered, nor are chronic or long-term conditions such as HIV, AIDS, diabetes and epilepsy.
Other issues such as pregnancy, emergency care and organ transplants do not fall under medical insurance. While treatment for cancer is often available, but rarely so under the basic package – this is also usually true of mental health conditions. If in doubt you should not assume that something is covered, and always look carefully into it to check.