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