In the United States, a large number of people have no health insurance, and that number is slowly increasing. The reason these people are without coverage are several. A high monthly premium is touted as the major reason why people do not opt for health insurance plans. Other reasons can be losing a job, the employer does not offer health plans, young adults who turn 18 and find themselves out of their parents’ coverage, or low-income workers who simply cannot afford health insurance. And the consequences of not having health insurance can be deadly. People avoid going to the doctors when they fall sick, and a large number of deaths in the US can be attributed to the fact that people chose not to get treated just because they lacked insurance and could not afford medical care. But there are options available for such people. Even though they are not covered under any health insurance plan, they can still make an appointment to see a doctor and get treated.
Living Without Health Insurance
Negotiate Your Medical Bills
If you are uninsured, you may face a bill in thousands for a visit to a doctor or emergency care. One way to cut back on paying such a high amount is to work out a deal with the doctor’s office, and they may help you by lowering your medical bill. HealthCare Advocates is one such group which can negotiate with doctors to reduce the amount of your bill. In some cases, they can even arrange for finances so you can pay the health care cost incurred.
Avail of Free Clinics
There are free health clinics which are financed by the federal government which cater to the health care needs of uninsured people. With a network of centers spread all over the nation, these health clinics offer vaccinations, treatment for certain diseases, and care for children and pregnant women. The patients are required to pay the medical fees incurred based on their income.
If you have lost your coverage because you resigned from your job, you can opt for COBRA, which stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It allows employees (and their dependents) to continue with their health coverage by remaining on their ex-employer’s health plan for a limited time. It is also beneficial for young adults, who have lost out on medical insurance coverage because they turned 18, to continue to remain under their parents’ plan temporarily.
Buying Prescription Drugs
The PPA (Partnership for Prescription Assistance) assists uninsured patients in getting prescription drugs free or at minimum costs, if you qualify. Other organizations that offer help for uninsured individuals in buying prescription drugs are The Access Project, HealthWell Foundation, and RxAssist. Alternatively, you can ask the drug store for a prescription-free alternative of the same drug. Instead of a brand-name prescription drug, look for generic alternatives of the same drug (quite easily available at pharmacies across all leading supermarkets). Or compare the price of the required drug in various pharmacies before you actually purchase it.
Consider enrolling in Medicaid. A joint effort by the federal and state governments, Medicaid offers health insurance programs to low-income families, especially pregnant women, families with children or handicapped individuals, provided they are eligible, based on certain specifications. Medicaid programs differ from state to state.
Buy Insurance for Your Children
The government has come up with the SCHIP plan (State Children’s Health Insurance Program). This program grants health care coverage to children coming from low-income families. This program varies from state to state, so look up for the SCHIP program pertaining to your state.
Opt for Direct Primary Care
These offer primary health care to persons who lack insurance coverage. Patients can visit doctors by making a fixed monthly payment to a DPC to access a host of medical services. It has eliminated the need for copays and deductibles, since there is no insurance company involved. But a DPC does not offer assistance during medical surgeries.
Buy the Cheapest Plan
For the sake of yourself and your family’s health, consider enrolling in a plan where you have to pay the least monthly premium. Your out-of-pocket medical charges might be very high, but it’s better to have some coverage than none at all.
Save for Future Medical Expenses
Even if you do not have health coverage, you will have to, at some point in life, pay for health care costs. You need to bear in mind that hospitalization charges for uninsured persons can be very high, and if you do not intend to buy health insurance, you need to start saving NOW for your future health care. If you do not have enough savings to repay the medical charges, you may end up sliding into debt, and the situation can only worsen. Consider building a nest egg, like you would for your retirement.
The government is going to come up with health care reform laws, which will offer health insurance to the uninsured in America. But it will be at least a good three years before these programs come into effect. Till then, if you are not covered under any health plan, the best option is to go in for the least expensive plan available. But if you choose not to buy coverage at all, look for low-cost treatment options when you are still healthy, keep your body in top shape, and save up for the future.