A Brighter Road to Healthcare for the Gig Economy


By Ron Lefkoski, Head of Sales & Business Development, Life, Accident & Health, Zurich North America

As the non-traditional workforce continues to grow in the United States, independent, freelance and gig workers are facing many obstacles. Are they classified as self-employed or employees of the platforms they schedule work with? Are employment opportunities consistent enough to earn enough sufficient money? How can they provide health insurance for themselves and their families without breaking the bank?

Healthcare costs are rising in America. Employers are often forced to offer higher out-of-pocket deductibles, increases in copayments and/or higher employee-paid premiums. However, employers are not passing all the increased costs along to employees, as they are wary of losing good workers. Increases in health insurance are expected to rise by 6% in 2023.1 According to the 2022 Heath Benefits Survey, the average deductible amount increased 17% over the last five years and 61% over the last ten years.2  These actions taken by employers increase out-of-pocket costs for their employees in an increasingly volatile economy with inflation that has not been seen since the 1980s.

Now imagine trying to provide healthcare insurance for yourself or your family with no employer contribution in this time where higher healthcare costs are coupled with these current economic conditions. In fact, a different study shows that 24% of gig workers do not have any health insurance coverage and of those, 58% do not have healthcare coverage because it is too expensive.3

A survey conducted by Zurich in North America’s, Life, Accident & Health team in March 2023 focused on non-traditional workers and their views and experiences of their way of employment and obtaining health insurance coverage for themselves and their families. 
According to the Zurich survey, gig workers’ biggest challenge with their employment platforms is a lack of consistent, stable income that comes with full-time employment. These feelings of frustration and desperation can lead to working for platforms with unsatisfactory practices such as scheduling blocks, restricted service areas, or cuts in pay.

When asked about health insurance, the major concern of survey respondents was high out-of-pocket costs from both the cost of the coverage and high deductibles. These health insurance plans are often inadequate options as employer-based health benefits are not available to this group and many go to the marketplace to get coverage. Often,  gig contractors receive no guidance from plan sponsors or carrier representatives like employer-based plans do. However, having no insurance is a gamble and, in some states, not an option. This may lead to sentiments of frustration, sadness, anxiety and anger about the health insurance they purchased and a distrust in the health insurance industry.

Most respondents in the Zurich survey say they try not to use healthcare unless necessary as they are concerned about hidden costs. Some respondents also said they would have to use hospital payment plans, credit cards, crowdfunding, fund-raising events or family assistance if they incurred a healthcare bill of around $1,000. Respondents also reported adopting preventative measures such as exercise, balanced diets, and the use of supplements. On the negative side, many also said they avoided seeking medical care in fear of uncovering a serious and costly health condition.

About Zurich North America

Zurich in North America is working to help solve problems like these for gig workers, creating a brighter road to better healthcare by offering supplemental products. Providing supplemental health benefits, Zurich American Insurance Company recently collaborated with Hooray Health to launch an affinity program through which participants can access urgent care facilities with a proprietary network of providers that accept a $25 copay. This allows gig workers and independent contractors to seek affordable care suitable in their line of work whenever they need it through the Hooray Health mobile app. Gig workers have different expectations for their benefits, Zurich is helping meet their expectations through innovative partners like Hooray Health to provide meaningful benefits and positive member experiences.

1 Carrnes, Ann. "Expect Higher Health Insurance Premiums, but Not a Lot Higher." New York Times. 4 November 2022.
2 2022 Employer Health Benefits Survey. Kaiser Family Foundation. 27 October 2022.
3 Hafner, Lee. “24% of workers in the gig economy are uninsured. How can employers help?” Employee Benefit News (EBN). 15 November 2022.

Coverage may not be available in all states or certain terms, conditions and exclusions may be different where required by state law. This insurance provides limited benefits. This insurance does not provide major medical or comprehensive medical coverage and is not designed to replace major medical insurance. Further, this insurance is not minimum essential benefits as set forth under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The information in this publication was compiled from sources believed to be reliable for informational purposes only. Any and all information contained herein is not intended to constitute advice. Accordingly, persons requiring advice should consult independent advisors when developing programs and policies.  Insurance coverages underwritten by individual member companies of Zurich in North America, including Zurich American Insurance Company. Hooray Health is not a subsidiary or affiliate of Zurich.

Published in the Spring 2023 issue of Insights Magazine.

PIMA® (Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the affinity market.