It seems more and more jobs these days don’t offer insurance to entry-level employees. Which is the better job offer: a job that pays more but has no insurance, or one that pays less but has basic insurance coverage? And what should you do for insurance if your job does not offer benefits right away?
Insurance can be important, especially if you already have health issues that will be hard to pay for on your own. How do you best navigate applying for insurance when you or a family member has preexisting conditions?
Depending on the job and your situation, there may be times when you should accept a job that doesn’t offer insurance or other benefits, and other situations where it may be best to keep looking.
What does your employer owe you?
What does your job owe you, anyway?
While the obvious answer is money, the truth is that since so many jobs do offer insurance and other benefits and since health insurance, in particular, is usually tied to employment, it can be argued that your job does owe you a certain amount of healthcare. This is especially true if the job is particularly taxing or could damage your health permanently.
Your employer owes you a safe and healthy workplace, which includes ergonomically sound workstations and sanitizing stations (for COVID protection). Your workplace should be compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) and be safe to work in.
If you feel you have been injured or made sick because of your work, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation.
However, despite these needs, your workplace doesn’t inherently owe you insurance. Unfortunately, there are many jobs that do not offer benefits, especially if they are only hiring part-time employees or temporary workers.
If you have a contract or freelance position, your job can often avoid paying you benefits. This doesn’t inherently mean the job is bad, but you will have to measure whether the job is giving you the other things that you need such as job security, physical safety, and enough of a paycheck that you can get insurance on your own.
When is a job without insurance worth it?
There may be times when, even if you have insurance, it isn’t enough to cover the damages incurred. Many claims do get rejected, and if you get into a car accident but have an existing condition, you may find your medical costs are rejected by your insurance company.
This doesn’t mean insurance isn’t important, but it does mean that if you have particular circumstances or live in a dangerous area that you will want other means of support for medical and other challenges.
In addition, some companies may offer a stipend for you to use to get your own health insurance plan, rather than health insurance itself. If it is a small company, you may decide that they are offering reasonable equivalents or supplements to healthcare.
If you have access to insurance through a spouse or partner as well, it may be less important for you to get insurance through your workplace.
If you technically count as self-employed, you may be able to get marketplace options for health insurance for the self-employed.
Also, if you’ve only recently left a full-time job, you can get short-term health insurance through COBRA, which lets you keep your old health insurance for 18 months. COBRA will also cover you if you used to have health insurance through a parent or spouse.
Members of labor unions may be able to get health insurance through them as well. The AARP, Freelancers Union, Writers Guild of America, Association for Computing Machinery, and the Affiliated Workers Association all offer some variety of health insurance options to members.
Finally, if you have access to affordable healthcare outside of your job, it may well be worth it to get a job that doesn’t offer it.
If you only intend to work temporarily or part-time, or you really need the income, you may find that a job that doesn’t offer insurance is still worth accepting.
When should you refuse to take a job that doesn’t offer benefits?
If you aren’t getting insurance, you should be getting a pay rate that takes that into account. If your job isn’t willing to pay you a competitive rate, then it may be better to take a job that pays less but offers benefits.
Take the time to compare how much you would have to pay for insurance out of pocket to get a real comparison between how much a job without benefits pays.
If your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you could ask if they offer a defined contribution plan instead. This gives you a set amount of money via payroll each month that you can use to get individual health coverage. If they don’t offer this, you may be better off finding an employer who does.
If you have a severe or chronic condition such as diabetes and you know you need regular access to care, then health insurance coverage may be more important to you than a high paycheck. Take into account your personal needs.
If you need prescription medication or need specialized surgery or treatments, then you might need to turn down jobs that don’t provide health coverage.
If the job seems particularly dangerous, taxing, questionable, or has a high turnover rate, you are justified in refusing it. This is especially true if you have enough savings or monetary support that you can afford to be a bit choosy. There is nothing wrong with searching for better work.
How choosy can job seekers be?
Many people lost their jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic, and it may be difficult to find a new career path. Because of the pandemic, many people are struggling to find work, and it may be that you can’t afford to wait to find the perfect job. Consider your particular situation, and decide on a set period of time that you can go without a job.
Keep in mind that even if job demand is high, you do have rights.
Employers often bank on their prospective employees being so grateful to have a job that they don’t make demands. Know that you do have the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and to have the means to support yourself physically and medically.
A good employer will care enough about your health that they will be willing to talk about options, whether that involves a higher pay rate or adjusted benefits.
Deborah Goldberg writes and researches about workers’ compensation and job benefits for the insurance comparison site, TheTruthAboutInsurance.com.