What Can You Do If You Have No Health Insurance?

We all know that everyone should have some kind of heath insurance. At a minimum, we should have it to cover medical emergencies that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then there are the healthcare provider network discounts that come with virtually every health insurance plan. That can cut the cost of a medical procedure by 50% or more.

But what if you don’t have an employer subsidized health insurance plan, can’t afford one on your own, or can’t qualify for affordable coverage due to health issues?

Photo by clevercupcakes via Flickr

6 Ways to Improve Your Situation

There are a few things you can do; none will be as good as having a full plan, but they can help.

1. Take better care of yourself!

If you have no health insurance then you can’t afford to get sick. That means taking care of your health by getting plenty of rest, eating right, exercising regularly and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol.

It also means taking care to avoid dangerous behaviors, like reckless driving or driving without a seatbelt. We should be taking these precautions all the time anyway, but if you have no health insurance they’re even more important.

2. Mini-clinics

Thousands of pharmacies across the country are now equipped with mini-clinics that can handle many of the same medical issues as general practitioners or even a doc-in-the-box. You can be treated for colds, flu, ear infections, minor injuries and all sorts of other illnesses and ailments and all for a fraction of the price of going to more conventional facilities.

One of the advantages to these clinics is that since they typically operate out of pharmacies, they can closely coordinate therapies. If you let them know that you don’t have insurance, they can prescribe either lower cost prescription medications, or over-the-counter alternatives that are less expensive still.

3. Emergency situations

It’s worth pointing out that even if you don’t have health insurance, hospitals are required to admit you and treat you in emergency situations. Never pass up going to the hospital in an emergency situation out of fear that you’ll be refused. And if you can’t pay, the hospital will often work out a reduced fee or a payment plan or both.

4. Government healthcare programs

Each state has it’s own healthcare program for people who can’t afford health insurance, either through the federal Medicaid program or something similar. It’s usually based on income so many people won’t qualify, but they’re always worth looking into.

Sometimes you can find government sponsored clinics that will provide inoculations and other services either for free or for a very small fee.

5. Part-time jobs

If you don’t have health insurance because of a health condition, you can consider getting a part-time job with health insurance. There may be some strings attached to it — such as working for several months before you’re eligible, or working a minimum number of hours — but it’s far better than having no coverage at all.

6. Catastrophic health insurance

Sometimes it’s worth getting the cheapest health insurance possible, often called catastrophic health insurance. It’s called this because it typically has a high deductible, so it only covers major medical events like surgeries.

A catastrophic plan can have a deductible of $10,000 or more, but that can make the plan more affordable, and might even get your coverage approved if you’ve been denied in the past.

With catastrophic, you’ll be covered for big medical issues, which will give you treatment options you won’t have if you don’t have insurance. It will also get you into the insurance company’s network, and that will mean substantial discounts on treatment, even if the procedure is less than the deductible and not paid by the company. It can cut a $5,000 medical bill (assuming a $10,000 deductible) down to $2,500.

You can search for catastrophic health insurance through eHealthInsurance.

None of these are perfect alternatives. But each, and especially a combination of a few, will give you more choice if you can’t afford more traditional health insurance coverage.

Get your life insurance quotes now, or you can also check out these list of insurance companies that can provide you with free quotes:

About the Author

By , on Oct 25, 2012
Kevin Mercadante
Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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Leave Your Comment (7 Comments)

  1. Kevin Mercadante says:

    Hi Jenny–I agree completely. One of the under-appreciated aspects of the HSA/catastrophic combination is that it makes us pause before going to the doctor. One of the reasons why healthcare is so expensive is because its being over used. People think, “better go just in case”, or (more commonly) “I’m not paying for it, so why not use it” – or put another way, “that’s what my insurance if for”. Some people run to the doctor every time they get a headache or a cold, and that drives costs higher for everyone. HSA’s create a saving incentive and that helps reduce healthcare overuse.

  2. Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says:

    Catastrophic health insurance isn’t a last-resort sort of thing. Combined with a Health Savings Account, it is some of the most affordable insurance out there, with great coverage when you are really in need. If I were self-employed, it would be my top choice. More complete plans cost as much as the deductible plus the plan cost, and when you pay it, it’s gone. But with an HSA, you get to save all the money you don’t spend from year to year, and you can even invest it, tax-free. So if you have 12 or 20 years of relatively low medical costs and then get hit by something horribly expensive, you have a big medical nest egg to take care of it.

    Catastrophic plans with a well-funded HSA are better than regular plans 95% of the time!

  3. Hi Pam–It’s even more important if you don’t have health insurance. Taking care of yourself is’t just taking care of yourself, it’s saving you money.

    Hi Nancy–There actually are companies that offer health insurance for part-timers. My wife works for one of them! It’s an excellent option if you have no other choice.

    Your situation (self-employed, 60, good health, high premiums) isn’t unique unfortunately. The older you are the more severe the problem. I know people in their 50s and 60s who are going without health insurance for the same reasons.

    We have to hope the the full implementation of healthcare reform in 2014 will help. Right now, the bill is too complex to assume anything though.

  4. NancyH says:

    Part time jobs that offer health benefits are rare as hens’ teeth. Some temp agencies offer it. But most employers hire part time so they can avoid providing costly benefits, just such as health insurance. Just to get this off my chest: I’m self-employed and 60-years old so my medical insurance cost has skyrocketed, even though I’ve never had a serious medical problem and seldom see the doctor for other than routine screenings. When my business took a big hit during the recession, my medical insurance went from about 10 percent of my income to nearly 25 percent of it. That’s a lot to pay for something I hardly ever use. But I’m holding on because the risk of total ruin is so high if I should get sick or in an accident.

  5. Pam says:

    You are right in the sense that one must take care of themselves if they want to stay healthy and avoid going to the doctor all the time.


  6. Exactly Wayne, and that’s what people miss when it comes to catastrophic coverage. The other thing is that it gives you treatment options with big medical problems. No insurance at all=no options.

  7. It’s never easy to deal with healthcare when you can’t afford comprehensive coverage. However, plans like catestrophic insurance are far better than nothing because you still get to take advantage of rates negociated by your insurance company.

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