Q: How does a part-time librarian find affordable health care insurance?

Q: How does a part-time librarian find affordable health care insurance?

Q: Dear Library Career People, 

I have so many questions I could ask but one dilemma is weighing on my mind (and affecting the contents of my wallet!): lacking health insurance as a part-time librarian. 

I absolutely adore my job as a YA librarian, but I am employed part-time. Though the job market for librarians has gotten a teensy bit better, competition is still fierce. I have yet to land another part-time position (which still wouldn’t give me insurance) or a coveted – and increasingly rare – full-time position. There is no option to “buy-in” to my employer’s insurance and civil service law limits my hours so I won’t qualify for that 30+ hour part-timer Obama law.

I make slightly too much income for state-sponsored programs like Medicaid but far too little to pay for private insurance out of pocket ($1,300/month?!). I know supposedly the new Affordable Care Act will change things next year, but do you know of any options that could help me? Do any professional librarian organizations offer group insurance? 

I know I can’t be the only part-time public librarian struggling with this. Please help if you can and thank you in advance. 

SM: You are definitely not the only part-time librarian to struggle with this issue, and you certainly won’t be the last. Lack of health insurance is one of the biggest drawbacks of working in a part-time position. It’s great that you love your job, but healthcare (or being able to afford health care benefits) is extremely important. Yes, things may change for the better in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, but you can’t be certain. So, your options come down to: find a different job that offers health insurance (not that practical), find another part-time job that offers health insurance (not so easy), marry someone who has health insurance (ummm?), have someone claim you as a dependent (rather unlikely), or pay lots of money for private insurance (sigh).

It seems like you’ve already looked into any possibility of getting on your employer’s insurance, or getting a lower rate because of your employer. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that  you talk with your supervisor and your human resources department to see if there is anything that can be done or any prospect of changing your existing position into one with benefits (you never know until you ask). Finally, you may want to talk to family members, colleagues, and other part-timers, to see if they have any suggestions and to find out what kind of health insurance they have. And, I’m not sure how old you are, but if you are younger than 26, you may have the option to be added to your parents’ plan.

The good news is that some state level library associations do offer discounts to their members on health insurance plans (for example, NYLA) and some universities offer medical plan discounts to alumni (for example, California State University, Long Beach). So check our your state and local library organizations, and any alumni association that you may be a member of, to find out.

Below are some resources that may provide you with more assistance or information on the current state of part-time positions. The good thing is that you are working in a job that you love and you are getting valuable experience which will help you get that next job… which will hopefully come with benefits. Good luck to you!

On-call, Pool, and Substitute Librarians Facebook Group

Association of Part Time Librarians

The Art of Part-Time
by Sandra Collins and Allison Brungard

Part-Time Work Becomes Full-Time Wait for Better Job
by Catherine Rampell

A Permanent Alternative: Temporary, Part-Time Library Work
by Jennifer Johnston

20 Best Part-Time Jobs With Benefits – Updated for 2013
by Emily Guy Birken

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Young Person’s Guide To Health Insurance