Doctor going over diagnosis with patient.

Inexpensive Options for Medical Care When You Don’t Have Insurance

4-Minute Read

You could be among the 27.5 million people in the U.S. who don’t have health insurance. And without it, there are a number of challenges you may face. Paying out of pocket can set you back by a lot since you’re responsible for all the costs. Medical bills can rise, making it difficult to ignore or pay it off without taking on a loan.

That’s why it’s important that you are proactive about if, when and how you pay for healthcare.

What Can You Do If You Don't Have Insurance?

The Affordable Care Act requires you to have health insurance. It’s the government’s attempt to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for all. The ability to keep medical services and supplies low depends on people paying medical bills – the ACA attempts to rectify this by lowering the amount of people who aren’t able to pay their medical bills.

Since 2019, the federal government hasn’t enforced the fine it used to impose on individuals who didn’t have health insurance, but your state still might. Check to see whether your state healthcare regulations will require you to pay a fee – which could cost a significant amount.

That being said, it might still be hard to afford health care. But there are state programs that can help, plus you can search for options through the myriad health insurance marketplaces – both private and government-run.

If your spouse has group insurance, where their plan can cover multiple people, find out if his or her insurance will cover you. If you or your spouse have recently been laid off or fired, find out if you are still covered by the provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Under COBRA, insurers must offer some employees health insurance coverage after leaving employment. However, COBRA isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be – and some individual plans are cheaper.

Decided to still forego health insurance? Make sure to shop around before your health is in trouble. Fees will differ depending on which doctor or hospital you visit – call around to find out approximate costs before you get sick. It’s worth it because you could save yourself a lot of money during an emergency.

Where Can I Get Medical Help Without Insurance?

If you don’t have health insurance, know that you still have a right to receive medical care. Most healthcare providers are very understanding and sometimes offer payment plans on a sliding or installment scale.

And if you’re really concerned about costs, there is heavily reduced or free care available.

The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, a nonprofit organization that helps those who are uninsured or under-insured have access to healthcare, have what it calls “safety-net healthcare.” It also helps those who won’t have access to primary, prescription or specialty healthcare otherwise.

There are around 12,000 locations throughout the U.S. providing various services by doctors, nurses, dentists and other types of medical professionals.

You can also seek out Hill-Burton hospitals that offer low-cost health care to those who are uninsured. The organization needs to provide a certain amount of reduced or free health care since it receives federal money. 

If you qualify, you can try for Medicaid – check to see what you need to do to get into the program. There are also county medical assistance programs, depending on location. These programs help the uninsured by providing services at no cost or on a sliding scale. 

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Urgent Care Without Insurance?

The good news is that urgent care tends to cost less than visiting the emergency room. That’s why it’s a more popular choice among those who have no insurance. Depending on location, you may need to pay around $100, but costs can go up if you need additional treatments or prescriptions.

Prescriptions can get expensive fast, so ask the doctor at the urgent care facility to give you the least amount you’ll need, prescribe generic brands or give you free samples if available. And always ask to see if a coupon or discount is available for the medication.

How Much Does It Cost to See a Doctor Without Insurance?

Seeing a doctor without insurance can seem overwhelming – even those with insurance feel the same way. The bad news is that costs can vary and there really isn’t a definitive answer as to how much it can cost you. It also doesn’t mean that just because you have no insurance that you’ll pay more than someone who does.

Before heading to the doctor, call and ask about approximate costs, including possible treatments and procedures. Be honest about your financial situation and your ability to pay – providers can be very understanding and, in most cases, happy to negotiate a lower fee.

Another option is to speak with direct primary care providers. Some charge patients a monthly fee so that patients can get heavily discounted services that outweigh the fee or for unlimited visits with their physicians.

Don’t forget telehealth options, where you don’t need to see a doctor in person for non-emergency situations. You get access to doctors on demand 24/7. Many companies charge a low fee to do so. For example, HealthTap costs $99 per person per year whereas Teledoc is from $49 each visit.

Healthcare costs can be expensive – it can feel stressful having to navigate it without insurance. That’s why it’s important to shop around and be as prepared as you can. Your health depends on it. 

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