As a growing number of Americans opt for a “gig” lifestyle, they are forced to fill in the gaps in healthcare coverage created by their freelance employment.
The booming tech industry has completely transformed the American economic landscape. For many, traditional employment has lost its allure — and that’s because anyone wielding a smartphone and some good, old-fashioned tenacity can become a micro-entrepreneur, at least according to The New York Times’ Natasha Singer.
Cobbling together a living wage through freelance work is by no means a new concept — but using a handheld device or website to accomplish the task is. This new way of working has birthed what’s commonly known as the gig, 1099, contract work, or on-demand economy.
One venture capital firm, SherpaVentures, recently estimated 2013’s total venture capital investment in on-demand economy startups at $1.6 billion. That money has in turn fueled the rise in number of freelance workers, as companies like Uber, Handy, and TaskRabbit — to name just a few — have hired millions of no-strings-attached workers.
SherpaVentures further believes that the freelance marketplace represents the new normal. The result? Industries across the board could see their employee structure change accordingly — with the number of part-time and full-time jobs dropping as the number of contractors correspondingly increases.
As Kevin Roose writes for New York Magazine, however, tax filings reveal some of the less advantageous repercussions of the freelance market’s ascent. Freelancers traditionally file a 1099-MISC, also known as the independent contractor form. But with 1099s, workers have no claims to health benefits, worker’s compensation, retirement plans, or unemployment insurance.
The Numbers Keep Rising
Even without the benefits of traditional employment, CNN reports that 31% of the U.S. labor force identifies as a “free agent,” according to a survey conducted by the recruiting and employment firm Kelly Services. In the survey, the majority claimed they had made the choice to become free agents, citing the freedom that comes with it as a key reason behind the decision.
MBO Partners, a consulting firm for independent contractors, reports around 17.7 million Americans file over half their work with a 1099. And experts further estimate that in the near future, half of all U.S. jobs could be gigs and 1099 filings.
Many of us know people who have chosen this new method of working, and their reasoning easily explains the appeal of freelance life. Jennifer Guidry, a Bostonian in her mid-thirties, enjoys the freedom and flexibility afforded by the startup economy. Moreover, Guidry can help support her three kids through her work for Lyft, Uber, Sidecar, and TaskRabbit — and all on her own schedule.
While Guidry enjoys spending time with her kids, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Lloyd Cook likes having free time to play his music. A musician by passion and trade, booking performances really interferes with his actual gigs. So he drives his car for Uber between 5 and 35 hours a week.
Similarly, Heather Brown recently decided to open up her home to travelers via Airbnb, and she now uses the service to supplement her part-time job for a software firm. Brown began to rely on the service when she realized she craved more time with her young daughter, as well as the pursuit of her true passion in life: painting. To give all of this up and take a full-time job, she says, that job would now have to offer “a whole lot of money.”
Tech Solutions to a Tech Problem
For independent contractors like Brown and Guidry, contract gigs can provide them with a substantial, yet potentially inconsistent income. In addition to the risks of income inconsistency,, this nontraditional work comes with no traditional benefits attached. According to a survey conducted by Request for Startups, the primary benefit freelancers wish they had available to them is health insurance.
That’s where SingleCare can help. SingleCare provides easy and affordable access to healthcare providers for those without insurance. By negotiating rates ahead of time with providers, SingleCare allows its members to save up to 50% on healthcare costs and browse for the price that works best with their budget.
Members only pay for the care they receive, and will never see a single copay or premium arrive in the mail. That’s right — workers of any tax form can now find affordable treatment with SingleCare.
(Main image credit: Scott McLeod/flickr)