As an owner-operator truck driver, your health is the most important thing when it comes to doing your job. If you become sick or injured, this could result in extended downtime as you may not be able to drive. While many company drivers are offered sick pay, owner-operators do not have this luxury. On top of this, not having health insurance could lead to additional costs in the long term.
This is why truck drivers should consider the types of health insurance plans available to protect their future finances. If you have the right health insurance plan, it will go a long way toward ensuring that you get the affordable medical care you need quickly so you can get back on the road as soon as possible.
Health Insurance Expenses
As an independent contractor, you can seek a health insurance plan that offers individual or family coverage through the marketplace, a private insurer, or a trade association. When you sign up for a health insurance plan, you must pay your monthly premiums on time to keep your policy in effect. If you are late, your health coverage may be canceled. However, since you are self-employed, you can claim a 100% deduction of your health insurance premiums if your employed spouse doesn’t have access to company-offered insurance.
If you have one or more employees who work for you, it might be possible for you to qualify for a small group coverage policy. The premiums you’ll pay for health insurance on behalf of your employees will be fully deductible. As an owner-operator, you are running your own small business, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) defines a small business as a group of 50 or fewer full-time employees.
In general, the deductible refers to the amount of money an individual will be responsible to pay before significant health insurance benefits kick in. In general, the higher the deductible is the lower the monthly premium costs will be.
Tax Tip - Use a health savings account (HSA) in combination with a high deductible health plan (HDHP) to save money tax-free. Grow the HSA balance by contributing frequently at hold a balance of at least your deductible. Think of this as a health escrow similar to your maintenance escrow. The HSA funds can be used to pay your deductible and other health-related costs.
Bonus Tip - For 2022, the maximum contribution amounts are $3,650 for individuals and $7,300 for family coverage. If you're 55 or older, you can add up to $1,000 more as a "catch-up" contribution. HSAs have no use-it-or-lose-it provision. Any funds still in the plan at the end of the year can be rolled over indefinitely. People that are in good health may be more likely to choose this option.
In general, individuals are responsible for paying for a portion of their health costs such as doctor visits or purchasing prescriptions. The amount paid by the individual will depend on the health insurance plan you choose.
This is the percentage of the medical costs that you’ll have to pay after reaching your deductible and before reaching the max out-of-pocket amount. For example, if your plan offers an 80/20 policy, your insurance company will 80% while you’ll have to pay 20% of the cost incurred after you reach your deductible.
This is the total cost for an individual or family for medical costs. When medical costs, during the year, exceed the plan’s maximum out-of-pocket cost, the medical excess costs are covered by the insurance company.
Federal or State Marketplace
One option truck drivers have for health insurance is an individual or family plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). You can get these plans through government exchanges or through brokers.
The federal government creates an “open enrollment period” where you may enroll for the first time or change your health insurance without a qualifying event. The open enrollment period typically runs from November 1st through December 15th each year. In most states, health insurance plans start on January 1st of the following year. These health plans are required to provide essential health benefits, cover pre-existing conditions, and have limits on deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket maximum amounts. These are policies that are similar to employer-sponsored insurance.
It’s important to note that health insurance plans are typically available by the state and zip code in which you live. This is important to consider when dealing with health insurance as a truck driver because you’re constantly traveling. Some truckers travel over state lines which means their health insurance may not cover them if they need healthcare while on the road.
You should also know that, depending on your income, you can get a subsidy to help afford your monthly health insurance premiums. When you apply for health insurance through the federal or state marketplace or exchange, you need to estimate your family income for the year. If your income is below a certain amount, you may be eligible to receive a subsidy to help you pay your monthly insurance premiums.
At the end of the year, you need to calculate how much your household income actually turned out to be. If your income is above the amount you estimated, you may have to pay back some or all of the subsidized assistance you received back to the marketplace as part of your tax liability. These subsidies had been set to expire in 2023 but the Inflation Reduction Act has extended these subsidies through the end of 2025.
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans
Short-term health insurance plans are great for those who find ACA health insurance premiums unaffordable. This insurance helps provide an affordable health insurance coverage safety net for those who can’t afford individual or family insurance.
It’s important to remember that short-term plans can deny you based on pre-existing conditions or can refuse to pay for medical conditions the policyholder had before the plan took effect.
While these plans are cheap and can provide you with some health insurance coverage, they do not have the same comprehensive coverage as ACA-compliant plans.
Though the benefits are not as robust as an ACA-compliant plan, Short Term Health Insurance can save you money in insurance premiums. These plans are recommended for drivers that are in relatively good health.
If you are just getting started as an owner-operator, an affordable Short-Term Medical Policy may help control your costs.
Through the Truckers Service Association (TSA) you can enroll in Independent Advantage Health Insurance Coverage. They have two options, Major Medical coverage, and Limited Medical coverage. Major Medical options are available for owner-operators through many of the nation's top major medical carriers. Limited Medical coverage is their lower-cost alternative that provides assistance with day-to-day medical expenses. Limited medical plans have an annual cap on the amount the insurer will pay for medical expenses and some benefits have a per-visit limit. Contact a TrueChoices advisor to learn more and enroll.
Truckers also have the option to become members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and take advantage of their healthcare and life insurance for themselves and their families. There are several benefits of OOIDA health insurance. The medical benefits group offers different types of plans so that OOIDA health insurance costs can vary. There are, however, many discounts and rebates offered by their service providers, which will help to bring down OOIDA insurance payments.
Another organization truckers can join is the National Independent Truckers Insurance Company (NITIC). They provide health insurance plans specifically designed for truck drivers. These can include protection in the case of damage or injuries caused by trucking accidents. Deductibles can vary according to location, your driving record, and the location of your company.
Another option truck drivers have for health insurance is government-compliant medsharing plans. These plans are similar to traditional health insurance except your premiums are put into an escrow account. Apart from the Member’s Shared Responsibility Amount, claims are paid through the escrow account. Preventative care, doctor’s visits, and prescription discounts are all things you can expect to be included in a Medsharing plan. You can typically purchase coverage through these plans year-round.
The best policy is one that strikes a balance among premiums, deductibles, and coverage that makes sense for the individual.
So Should You Have Insurance as an Owner-Operator Truck Driver?
Treat insurance as an investment in your financial well-being, not just your health. While the vast majority of uninsured U.S. adults cite high costs as the main reason for lacking coverage, out-of-pocket medical bills are the leading cause of American consumer bankruptcy. Of course, not paying for insurance can be less expensive in the short term, but uninsured people are just an illness or injury away from catastrophic health and financial consequences.