Health Insurance When Working For A Temp Agency

Kelley-Jensen2Author:  Kelley Filice Jensen

I work for a temp agency that calls me when they have an assignment.  I never know how many hours I am going to work in a given month, but one assignment can keep me at a Company for 6 months, it just depends.  Right now I have no health insurance, but would like to get some, starting in 2014, with the new law.  Can I get it through the temp agency, one of the company’s I have been assigned to, or do I have to buy it myself? 

It depends on the hours you work.  It is hours that determine whether you are a full time employee eligible for affordable health insurance coverage from your employer, or whether you are a part time employee or contractor  not entitled to benefits.

So, how many hours make me a full time employee, for health insurance purposes?

You must work an average of 30 hours per week, during a 6-month consecutive period, in accordance with the new law taking effect 2014.  The period will be determined by your employer.  So for example, your employer may choose the last 6 months of 2013, and average all of your hours during that time.  If those hours total less than 30 per week, your employer will deem you ineligible for health insurance benefits.  This will mean you should buy an individual health insurance plan.

Do I consider my employer to be the temp agency, or the company I have been assigned to?

Your employer is the temp agency.

Is that true even if I have been on a lengthy assignment with the same company?

Yes.  The temp agency has the contract with the company, unless you have officially been given an employee status by that company.  But, if your assignment with the same company has been averaging more than 30 hours a week, you are entitled to benefits from the temp agency.

What if the agency does not offer health insurance to ANY employees, regardless of hours worked per week?

Employers with that average of more than 50 full-time equivalent employees (based on the 30 hour work week average described above), will be required to offer affordable health insurance to employees or pay a penalty in 2014, known as the pay or pay penalty.  So, if you work for a temp agency that has less than 50 employees and they do not offer health insurance benefits, it is because they are not required to, and you should buy an individual health insurance plan.

What if I am not sure about the number of employees or need my average hours calculated? 

You should contact the human resources department, and they should have this information available to you by January 1, 2014.

What if they offer me health insurance coverage, but it is not affordable to me?

Affordable is defined by Obamacare as less than 9.5% of your wages.  So, if the plan employer sponsored plan offered to you is more than 9.5% of your wages, it is unaffordable and you should buy an individual health plan where you may qualify for subsidy (premium assistance credit).

What about my family, does work have to offer them affordable coverage? 

No, they do not.  Your work may be required to offer you affordable coverage, but they are not required to offer affordable coverage for spouses and dependents, and unfortunately, your work’s contribution to your affordable coverage makes the entire family ineligible for subsidy (premium assistance credit).  This is one of the unfortunate loopholes in Obamacare, as of now.  They are trying to amend this portion of the law, so stay tuned for updates.

When do I have to have insurance or pay a penalty?

January 1, 2014.  Obamacare takes effect January 1, 2014, and it requires you to carry health insurance or pay a penalty (it is called the individual shared responsibility penalty).

If your income levels fall within the Federal Poverty Levels, you can receive a subsidy that will help pay your health insurance premiums (premium assistance credits).

But, you are not eligible for premium assistance credits that subsidize the cost of your insurance if you are offered affordable health insurance coverage at work, regardless of your income level.  The new law wants employers to offer health insurance wherever possible.

So, if you do temp work, you really need to know how the temp agency is averaging your weekly hours, for health insurance eligibility purposes.

How much is the penalty?

It increases as the law takes effect, to give people time to enroll.  Read all about it here.

So if the penalty is not that bad, why not just stay uninsured, I have gone this long without it?

Yes, you have, and you have paid out of pocket every time you have had to see a doctor or get a prescription for the slightest thing.  The costs of medicine, doctors’ visits, lab tests and x-rays quickly add up to more than health insurance premiums, especially when subsidized by the new law.  Even healthy people break their arm or sprain their ankle.  There are MANY reasons not to stay uninsured, read them here.

Ok, so I want health insurance, and I think I qualify for subsidy, where do I start?

Read up on how to buy affordable health insurance in 2014 here.   And, consider using the services of a licensed health insurance agent that is authorized to help with your state’s health care exchange, California’s is called Covered CA.  Exchanges and health care reform are new, but health insurance is not, and agents have the most experience with health insurance plans, carriers and consumer questions.  Their services are also totally free to consumers because their fees are paid by the insurance carriers.

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