How do I insurance from afar?
August 20, 2018 6:00 AM   Subscribe

I am constructing a proposal to my bosses to allow me to work remotely, because I want to move to a different city. How do I sort out insurance?

My organization is locally focused and does not have any other out-of-town remote workers. There's a chance that they will say yes to my request because of my value to the organization, but there is no precedent within the company for how to set any of this up.

I currently have the work-provided health coverage, single-no-dependents, and it's good coverage that I'm pleased with for a fair price. If I move, I will no longer live in the geographic area covered by my insurer, which is the only company that we can choose (although we can select from several plans) and which does not operate at all in the area where I would move to.

Under the plan that I'm on now, any doctor I see in the new town would be out of network and thus covered to a lesser degree. Also, I would have to pay for everything upfront and be reimbursed, rather than paying copays and having the doctors offices file the insurance claims.

How do other remote workers do this? Is there some secret trick that I don't know about?

If I can't get this insurance to work, I'll have to get Obamacare ... I make too much for a subsidy so that's going to be hella expensive for something bare-bones and it probably won't be around much longer anyway.

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is this in the same state?
If so and your company doesn't have a presence in that other state they'll have to pay taxes for you there and few companies are willing to do that. They may keep you on as a contractor but that would not include health insurance.
posted by k8t at 7:00 AM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's actually even more complicated than you realize - it's not just insurance, it's also that your employer needs to follow the labor rules and taxation rules of the place you're living/working. Sometimes this is pretty simple if it's like, adjoining US states, but it can be much more complicated. Like, if you're in California and your employer is in Tennessee, your employer needs to follow California employment law when dealing with you (and you alone).

Some companies know what they're doing and are set up for handling employees in different places - it sounds like this is not the case for your company, and they would probably need some help getting up to speed on it (there are probably consultants they could hire or ways they could outsource this).

Another thing people do is work as independent contractors - they do similar work but they're no longer officially "employees" of their organization. This is also kind of a minefield.

Every time this comes up on Ask, a lot of people give terrible information about this because it's complicated and not many people understand it. I really don't understand it, but I do know it's pretty complicated.
posted by mskyle at 7:00 AM on August 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

When I did this, I stopped getting my employer's health insurance. They increased my pre-tax pay by the amount they were paying for that insurance. And I used that to buy my own ACA insurance on the individual exchange.

The difficult bit is persuading your employer to increase your salary by the amount they would otherwise be paying for health insurance. My employer was a small organization so it wasn't getting a significantly better price for health insurance than the individual market, and they were based in an expensive state. So the raise was just about enough to cover the cost of buying the insurance myself.

I don't know of a secret trick. The only good news is that moving out of your insurer's network area is a qualifying event for the ACA, so you can do this any time of the year.

As mskyle says, there's a ton more to this from the point of view of payroll, benefits like state tax and disability, and other kinds of insurance.
posted by caek at 7:21 AM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

My small company had workers all over the US, i.e. on the order of 10 employees total with at least one person in 5 different states.

It complicated our search for health insurance. Ultimately we only found one company that was willing to sell us health insurance that could be used by people in every state. I believe towards the end we stopped offering health insurance to people outside Massachusetts and just gave them the equivalent amount of money to buy their own health insurance on the Obamacare market. Unfortunately that meant the cost of their insurance was not tax deductible.

We also had to file taxes and sign up for things like workers comp and unemployment insurance in every state where we had an employee. I didn't do this work (my partner did), but it did involve work that was sometimes annoying. You're dealing with bureaucracies in all those states -- you can imagine. It also increased the cost of getting our taxes done at the end of the year by a few hundred dollars.

Obviously one state is not as big a deal as five, but there's still some complication involved.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:40 AM on August 20, 2018

The companies I have worked for that were small companies with multiple remote workers usually went through a benefits provider like TriNet or Sequoia One, that maintain a presence in all 50 states, and can handle all the paperwork and logistics. If your company runs their own HR and benefits, this will be a much bigger hurdle.
posted by jferg at 7:02 AM on August 21, 2018

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