If you're looking for health insurance for self-employed individuals, you've probably asked yourself, Is a self employed person eligible for an HRA? Possibly! There are options for small business health insurance for owners, and they are probably more affordable than you think! Many freelancers like you are opting for a new reimbursement model for healthcare for business owners which boasts many benefits, helps with budget control, and is more predictable.
Health insurance for self-employed 101
If you own a business that brings in income, but you have no employees, you’re considered self-employed.
And if you're self-employed, you've probably gone down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out the most affordable health insurance. In the past, you probably had a group plan through your employer, but now, on your own, that's simply not the case.
Here are your options:
- You could opt to go without health insurance (do not recommend!)
- You could choose a more affordable sharing ministry (not "real" insurance but a viable option for many)
- You could have coverage through a spouse's group plan through their work
- You could purchase a traditional health plan on Healthcare.gov and hope you get subsidies (otherwise, quite expensive!)
- You could purchase an individual plan that works best for you and get reimbursed tax-free from your business, lowering your taxable income
That last bullet sounds pretty sweet, right?
What we are referring to there is a health reimbursement arrangement. Fair warning - some self-employed folks qualify for health reimbursement arrangements, others don't.
Let's walk through the scenarios and see if you qualify for this affordable option for health insurance for freelancers.
What is an HRA?
A health reimbursement arrangement is an affordable, tax-advantaged alternative to traditional insurance where employers reimburse their employees for individual insurance premiums and medical expenses (if applicable) on a pre-tax basis.
The use of new reimbursement models like QSEHRA and ICHRA put the employer's reimbursements on nearly the same tax playing field as traditional small group plans, but without all the hassles and requirements. Before, a big advantage for group plans was that they were deductible expenses for employers and were taken out of employee paychecks on a pre-tax basis.
Is a self employed person eligible for an HRA?
Whether or not self-employed owners can participate in an HRA depends on how the plan and business are set up. In order for a business owner to participate in an HRA, they must be considered an employee of the business.
- C- Corps are legal entities separate from the owners. Under a C-corporation the business owner and dependents can utilize an HRA!
- S- Corps prevent businesses from being taxed by passing any profits and losses through shareholders personal income tax returns. Because of this set-up an S-Corp owner that owns more than 2% of the company is considered self-employed and not an employee. The bad news? Since S-Corp owners are not employees, they typically cannot participate in an HRA. The good news? Self-Employed individuals can already deduct some health insurance expenses without an HRA.
We strongly recommend S-Corp owners talk to their licensed tax professional or CPA.
- Partnerships also are not subject to income tax. Partners are directly taxed, making them self-employed and not eligible for participation. The Loophole: if the partner’s spouse is a W-2 employee (and not a partner spouse) then the owner can participate in the HRA as a dependent of the spouse.
- Sole-Proprietorships are unincorporated businesses owned and operated by one individual with no distinction between the business and owner. The owner is not an employee and will not qualify for the HRA unless their spouse is a W-2 employee, then the owner can access the HRA as a dependent of the spouse (for QSEHRA only).
If you’re self-employed with no employees and you’re married, this post walks you through the steps you can take to participate in an HRA.
Need help with health insurance for self-employed?
Hopefully we've been able to shed some light on your options for health insurance for self-employed. While we always advise our clients to speak with their CPA before jumping in, we are ready to chat on our website if you have any specific questions about your business and how HRAs could help. Setting up a small business HRA or setting up an ICHRA is simple and quick, and our team is here to help if you need it.
We have a ton of excellent resources available to you, including FAQ pages for the ICHRA and QSEHRA and many informational posts available on our blog.
This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated in 2023 to reflect the latest policy changes.
A wife to one and mother to four, Keely does all of the things. She’s also dabbled in personal finance blogging and social media management, contributed to MetroFamily magazine, and is passionate about good food, treasure hunting and upcycling. With a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma and a knack for a witty punchline, it’s no surprise that Keely’s social posts are as clever as they get. In her (very little) free time, you’ll find Keely with her nose in a book or trying out a local restaurant with her family.