What To Do When You Don’t Have Health Insurance

In winter I was in hospital to see my friend’s new born. There, I witnessed a heated dispute between a patient and the hospital authorities over hospital charges. There was no way that patient could have afford $5000 for a day at the hospital because she didn’t have sufficient insurance.

I am a salaried employee and only get concerned about my co-pay and deductibles, I had not much idea about health care cost prior to that incident.

In US,  50 million people live without insurance.

The main reason behind this is inability to pay the insurance premium. Also, for young adults, a relative confidence on good health makes spending on health insurance premium a second choice to spending on other things.

More than 50% of all bankruptcy cases in US are due to non-payment of medical bills, and most of them are people without health insurance or limited insurance coverage.

There is help you can seek when you are in need for health care while you are not insured, this is based on information available in public domain.

Alternatives for some one without health insurance

Medicaid – Run by the state govt, available for low-income families and requires a stringent qualification procedure. Not all can qualify, but, if you do your basic health care and equipment charges are covered by the state and federal govt fund. All you want to know about Medicaid

COBRA – When you are uninsured because of job loss, you can be enrolled in the COBRA program through your previous employer for 18 months. But you have to pay the premium yourself. More information on COBRA

High deductible Low premium Policies – You basically take a risk on your good health, up side is that you need to pay lower monthly premiums that you can afford. Downside is a risk of wealth erosion due to high deductible, if you need medical help. Another positive is that, having an insurance ensures you pay insurance negotiated lower rates. Let me explain the benefits further

Plan 1-  $100 premium a month, and $5000 deductible, after which, the plan pays 80%. If you visit doctor once or twice a year for minor illnesses and doctor charges $200 per visit. Your total health bill for the year is (100 x 12 ) + (200 x 2) + 50 = $1650

For someone who sees a doctor more often than a couple of times a year, it would make more sense to go for a plan with high premium and low deductible.

Plan 2 – $500 premium a month, but only has a $100 deductible, after which, the plan pays 80%. Visits to the same doctor will now cost only $120 per visit., so in each visit you save $80 compared to plan 1.

When you have big illness which requires a hospital admission, you will only pay $100 towards the cost, where as plan 1 pays up to $5000.

Short Term Policy – If you are in transition between jobs, consider taking a short-term policy. They offer cheaper rates as insurer is exposed to risk for temporary term. Read more on short-term insurance

Treat yourself overseas – Do you have a friend in India or China or east European countries. Medical tourism is on the rise. Due to advent of technology, every one around the globe is exposed to new inventions and practices. A doctor in India is as good as a doctor in US.  Visit Govt of India medical tourism website. You can be cured for up to one tenth of the cost in US. Talk to your doctor and people who used this option before opting for overseas health care.

Utilize Auto Insurance Policy – If you have one (you should have one, it’s law), you can use it in absence of health insurance, when you are injured in auto accident.

Health care credit card – When are you are in need, health care credit cards can help you. Unlike normal credit cards they offer more flexible payment terms and rates. Here is the comparison between the healthcare credit cards

Lion’s Club Vision insurance – “Lions clubs often conduct free vision screenings for children and adults. Some Lions districts have their own mobile van for vision screenings. In other instances, clubs arrange with local hospitals or health departments for an eye care professional to perform the screenings. Lions who are eye care professionals may also perform vision screenings.” From the Lion’s club Website.

Dental school provided free service – If you can leave your teeth to the dental students, you can get mighty bargain on dental cost. This online resource you can use, although I can’t recommend as I don’t know any one who used their services, but it’s worth a try. You can contact local dental schools and ask about surgeries and the costs associated with it.

Free Clinic – You might get help from national association of free clinics’ help, they run 1200 non-profit health care clinics throughout the country. Find a free clinic near you. (if you are a reader who can afford to donate to NAFC, please follow the link and donate)

Emergency CARE – If you are in emergency, do not hesitate to get in to the nearest emergency care, life is first before financial health, if god is kind, your charges can be waived off if the hospital requires to treat you for free. Read Emergency Medical Treatment Act.

Health Prevention – Many health conditions can be prevented and mostly they are within your control. Skin related problems can be prevented by practicing cleanliness rigorously, you can prevent a skin disease and associated high cost of skin cure drugs.

Save on Prescription drugs

  • Ask your doctor for generic drugs instead of brand names
  • Once in a year take all your medicines to pharmacist and ask for a cheaper version if available
  • Call our doctor and take advice if you can take over the counter medicines instead
  • Check with your employer, they might have free medicine program with MEDCO, do check your health insurance terms properly.
  • Participate in drug trials, but after consulting with our doctor
  • Consider mail order pharmacies
  • Consider online pharmacies and shop for prices, you might get a couple of dollar difference between pharmacies
  • Use ‘Switch your pharmacy” offers wherever you get a coupon from. Sometimes pharmacies offer discounts from $10 – $50

Of course, you will save money on your prescriptions if you have health insurance, since the insurance will cover most of the expense. If you do not have health insurance, however, you can still save money every time you need to fill an order by ordering them from an online pharmacy, as they offer lower prices and will deliver right to your door.

Did you ever use any of the above mechanisms or one which is not mentioned here? Comment and let others know. 
Note: There is no alternaive to having insurance, if you can afford one, you got to have one for your own well being.
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  1. says

    When I met my DH he did not have any health insurance, because he had no medical issues he was able to get a high deductible plan for less than $100/month and the plan would cover anything over $2700. Later on, I aged out of my mom’s plan and because of medical issues could not get any private plan, I COBRAed my insurance for $550/month. It was hard seeing all that money go out of my account but it protected me. Insurance is important even if it means working more hours or removing fun stuff, you do what you need to do.

    • says

      whats your current status on insurance? COBRA is really expensive but, as you said, better than having no insurance. It was a drainage of money because you didn’t have any major illness at that time, otherwise you would have felt otherwise, isn’t it?

  2. says

    We do have health insurance and we still have a high deductible plan to keep costs as low as possible. Essentially, we’re self-insuring for the non-catastrophic stuff.

    I would add part-time employment to the list as a way to obtain health coverage. It’s not ideal to work only for health insurance, but there are some employers that offer coverage to their part-time workers and it beats being uninsured.

    • says

      This is a very good idea for a job less, thanks for bringing this out. If you find at least a part time job which offers health benefit, do opt for that while you continue to search for a full time job.

  3. says

    Good list of alternatives here for those that don’t have health insurance. I just had a friend finally go to the hospital after a week. He didn’t want to go because the last time he was there he got a $1,500 bill for one hour of service.

    The cost of health care in this country is incredible and going to lead to a lot more bankruptcies, but no one seems to care. We are the only industrial nation without health care for all. When will the people wake up?

    • says

      Probably the day when we stop suing the doctors for wrong treatment. I have this information that almost 50% of a doctor’s/medical facility’s earning goes in to insurance to protect them in case of lawsuits. So I believe it is the financial industry that you can blame. I pay around $3k per year towards health cost (so far we have been healthy) in 10 years of healthy life I will pay $30K. Come one major illness or accident which requires more than couple of days in hospital, the bill will be more than $30K.

      If my wife gets pregnant, it will take around $50k for the cost of delivering a child, you know where I am coming from?

  4. Mary says

    I was once without insurance for few months, gosh i hope Inever have to go through that, i agree to earlier comment on having part time work for insurance. good writing

  5. Krishna says

    I don’t think COBRA can qualify for a cheaper option but agree that its an alternative. switch over to a main insurer as fast as you can when you get a job.

    • says

      well put, can’t agree more, COBRA is just for what it is, that is to provide you with temporary cover, I would rather suggest having a private short term insurance, price comparison is the key here.

  6. says

    You can also go to your local County or City health centers (if there is one). A lot of them still offers low payments for those who do not have insurance and not qualify for the medicaid. Medicaid are usually for low income with very little assets and patients has to be meet the age (senior or kids) or disability requirement, if any.

    • says

      thanks for suggesting this to us. We have our city health care facility where we do go for normal illness etc in fact we go for sports injury too they do charge less compared to doctor’s

  7. Bertha says

    whoah this blog is excellent i really like reading your articles. Stay up the good paintings! You recognize, many individuals are hunting round for this information, you could aid them greatly.

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