After all those nerve-wracking interviews, you’ve finally landed the job that could set your career in the right direction. Just one thing — when it comes to health benefits, the pickings are slim. Whether that’s because the company can’t afford to invest in health insurance or because you’ve been hired on a part-time or contract basis, you’re right to hesitate before you sign the offer. Is it a mistake to settle for a job with no benefits, or is it worth it to get your foot in the door?
Not to worry — you don’t have to let an empty benefits package scare you. With some informed research, careful negotiation and a few trade-offs, you can make this work. Here’s how.
Figure Out a Plan B for Health Care
Even if you’re young and healthy, it’s not smart to skip out on health insurance. You want to explore your insurance options before you get sick or injured, making sure you at least have coverage for large unexpected medical expenses.
Of course, you may be able to join a spouse or partner’s plan or remain on your parents’ insurance. But if that’s not an option, find some time to settle down and shop around. Start with a bit of research and make sure you’re familiar with everything a health plan can entail, from premiums to copays and deductibles. As you consider different types of insurance, investigate whether or not the following health insurance options will work for your situation:
- Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage. This applies if you’re leaving a job where you did have benefits. Rates are typically high, since your employer no longer helps foot the bill, but COBRA lets you keep your current coverage as you transition to other health insurance. Note that while you have to decide whether to continue coverage through COBRA within 60 days, you can maintain it for 18 or 36 months, making it a potential option if you expect to receive health benefits in the not-quite near future.
- Group or association health insurance plans. There’s a chance your professional industry offers group coverage, such as a Freelancers Union plan. And if you’re technically self-employed, an association health plan might be available for your industry or geographical region.
- Supplemental insurance. A supplemental plan can bridge a variety of gaps in your coverage. If, say, your employer does offer health benefits but they only kick in after 90 days, a short-term plan can provide temporary coverage. Or if your employer’s benefits are too bare-bones to give you peace of mind, consider critical illness, accident or fixed indemnity plans, which add in a layer of security.
Once you know what to look for in a plan, search through comparison sites as well as the government’s health insurance marketplace. Keeping your health and financial needs in mind can help steer your toward the type of plan you need. A plan with a high deductible will typically have a low monthly premium, for example, so if you’re pretty healthy, you can take advantage of the lower monthly cost. If you have a number of health care needs, though, make sure the plan you choose will help you handle regular ongoing expenses.
Bone Up on Your Negotiation Skills
You can also look past traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement accounts and think about how some less common benefits can improve your working life. Consider, for instance, flexible hours, tuition reimbursement or commuter benefits. While employment laws mean that not everything is negotiable in a job offer, if you focus your attention on what is, your chances of success skyrocket. You’re not overreaching to ask for a laptop or a gym membership — as long as you’re confident and polite in your request, a negotiation can not only improve your job offer but also serve as an opportunity to reiterate your skills and demonstrate to your new employer what you’re worth.
Struggling to figure out what or how much to request during negotiations? Start by trying to determine the average the cost of the health care premiums you’ll be on the hook for in order to give you a monetary reference point to work from. Say a health plan with a $5,000 deductible will cost you $250 per month; that’s $3,000 a year you’ll want to make up for in other perks or even a pay bump.
Whether you’re part of the growing gig economy or just see an opportunity to set the stage for a huge career jump in the future, taking on a full-time job with no benefits is a delicate balancing act. But if you do it right, it doesn’t have to slow you down.