Potential of freelance insurance market not fully tapped

As we inch closer to the opening of the health insurance exchanges and the influx of millions of new individual customers to the insurance industry, one insurer is honing in on a often overlooked consumer group--freelancers, which total 42 million.

Cigna conducted a study of these independent workers, and found 25 percent lack health insurance. The study, which surveyed 250 self-employed Americans, determined 60 percent of freelancers prioritize their business over personal health and wellness, while about 33 percent said a personal illness could potentially cause them to go out of business.

"Clearly the stakes are high for this population to stay healthy in order to stay successful in business," Lisa Lough, vice president, Cigna Individual and Family Plans, said in a statement.  

Also noteworthy, Cigna found 82 percent of uninsured freelancers said they lack insurance because it's too expensive. But 80 percent of the respondents overestimated insurance costs while about 33 percent underestimated medical costs. To help clear up these misconceptions regarding insurance and health costs, Cigna created a new website and social media platforms dedicated to freelancers and facts applicable to this group.

Cigna is wise to turn its attention to freelancers, since the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has predicted that this self-employed group could grow by 1.5 million next year alone as exchanges make quality health insurance more accessible, according to Bloomberg Businesweek.

"America's small business owners and entrepreneurs--the independent contractors, sole proprietors and freelancers--power the economy," Lough said. "To stay healthy and successful, self-employed workers need to plan for their health care needs and think more about health care in terms of prevention, instead of reaction."

To learn more:
- here's the Cigna statement and study
- read the Bloomberg Businessweek article