So you’ve snagged a job as a Santa impersonator or a cashier at an ice cream shop. It’s a sweet gig, but it won’t last forever. Eventually, the Christmas trees will come down or the ice cream shop will close until next summer. Until then, you need health care for seasonal workers — but does insurance for seasonal employees even exist? Let’s get into it.
Who’s Considered a Seasonal Worker?
A seasonal worker is any employee who works fewer than 120 days per year. Seasonal workers may work a traditional season, like summer or the holidays from October through December, but it doesn’t actually matter how the time is divided up — a seasonal employee could work just during the months of January, April and October, for instance.
How Can Seasonal Workers Get Coverage?
While oftentimes companies don’t offer health insurance to seasonal workers, don’t count out the possibility entirely. Ask your employer whether or not their benefits extend to health care for seasonal workers. If they don’t, you’re not alone — in 2017, 17.6 million people purchased their own health insurance outside of an employer. Here are three of your best options for finding a plan.
Major medical plan. Starting in 2019, any penalties for forgoing minimum essential health coverage will be eliminated. Still, if you don’t want to risk being on the hook for an expensive medical emergency, one of these plans from Healthcare.gov or a state-run exchange will offer the most comprehensive coverage. You might even qualify for a subsidy to lower your monthly premiums.
Supplemental plan. If a major medical plan isn’t right for you, a supplemental health insurance plan from the private market may work instead. You won’t qualify for subsidies with this kind of insurance, but the plans — including critical illness and fixed indemnity insurance — may provide coverage for serious unexpected medical events or emergencies.
Short-term plan. While these plans technically provide temporary health care coverage, now, depending on the state you’re in, a short-term plan can offer coverage for an initial period of up to 364 days and for up to three years total. While they don’t typically meet minimum essential coverage or cover preexisting conditions, short-term plans offer low monthly premiums, and coverage can start as soon as the day after you apply. This makes them a potential option to cover you either for an extended period or in between seasonal gigs that do provide health benefits.
Consider your situation and your needs to decide what kind of plan will work best for you. How much do you want to spend each month in premiums, and how much money can you afford to pay for out-of-pocket costs? Are you just looking for coverage for the duration of this job, or do you want something more permanent? Are there restrictions on any kinds of health plans where you live? Do you expect to need any major medical services in the near future, or do you just need basic coverage?
Answering questions like these will help you manage your health care and find a plan that does what you need it to do — no more, no less.