If you are self employed, chances are that finding affordable health insurance is one of your biggest struggles; and this run true for many others like you. In the United States, over 40 million people—that’s about one-third of the workforce—are self employed. While some are freelancers and independent contractors, others are officially retired but have continued to work a reduced schedule.

And others have accepted an early retirement package to start their own business.  There’s one problem that all these people have: finding health insurance. Despite that a significant fraction of people in the united states are self employed, the reality still remains that self employed individuals are typically overlooked in the health insurance marketplace.

It’s quite unfortunate you have to lose your health benefits just because you decided to follow passion and start your own job or business. This thought alone makes some people think twice before making a leap to self-employment. Though finding health insurance might be a huge roadblock if you are self employed, there are some smart ways you can get affordable group health insurance. And here are some of them:

How to Get Affordable Self Employed Group Health Insurance

1. Use your ex-employer’s plan

If you are retiring, you stand a chance to enjoy your employer’s health insurance plan. However, this option is not available to everyone, as some employers don’t offer retiree health benefits. So, check with your employer to see if you are still covered by their group health insurance package even in retirement. Alternatively, you can buy health insurance through your ex-employer’s plan.

Many employers who don’t offer retiree health benefits allow this. And some employers might even subsidize a portion of the premiums. But where the premiums are not subsidized the premiums are usually expensive. However, you must bear in mind that when you are using an employer’s plan, the employer holds the right to cancel or alter your coverage at any time.

2. Use your spouse’s plan

If you have a spouse who is working with an employer and is covered by that employer’s group health insurance plan, then you can attach yourself to your spouse’s portion of the coverage. Your spouse will pay a higher premium because of the switch from individual to family coverage, but the cost will still be much less than having an individual.

Some group health insurance plans won’t allow participants to add their relatives until the open enrollment period, usually around November or December. Try to delay your retirement or resignation to that period, so you won’t go ‘coverless‘ for too long.

3. Join a professional group

Many professional and trade groups such as alumni associations, bar associations, and so on offer health insurance with group coverage rates. You can join any of such groups and purchase a health insurance policy under their plan. Or if you are already a member of one, you should find out what’s available for members.

If you are a small business owner, you can check with your local Chamber of Commerce or small business to see if you can purchase your health insurance policy under their plan. If you live in the United States, you can join associations such as The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE.org) and The Freelancers Union.

These associations offer health insurance plans to their members. In fact, The Freelancers Union currently covers over 25,000 self-employed individuals and their family members, and offers premiums that are reportedly a third below market rates.

4. Enjoy the COBRA

If you are based in the United States, this is another option for you. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act requires that employers offer continued health and dental insurance coverage to their ex-employees and their dependents for up to 18 months after leaving their job.

So, you can purchase your plan under this roll-over coverage. While this option has some upsides, it’s usually expensive because the entire insurance costs come from your own pocket—and you still have to pay a 2% administrative cost!

5. Purchase a small-business group plan

Some states require insurers to offer coverage to small groups regardless of whether any employees have health issues. So if you hire one or more employees (maybe your spouse), you may be eligible to buy coverage through a small business group insurance plan. To be considered a group, you need at least two employees. You might need the services of a health insurance agent when setting up this plan, though.

There you have it! If you have been brooding over your inability to secure health insurance due to being self-employed, you just discovered five smart options. Find out more about each of them, and go with the one you deem most suitable for you.

Ajaero Tony Martins