February 21, 2017

How to Afford Healthcare Without Insurance

Each year in America, millions of people survive without health insurance. Without significant medical problems, some of these individuals are able to get by without incurring serious debt. In the case of major surgeries or fatal illnesses like cancer, the medical bills can be overwhelming and may even cause patients to declare bankruptcy. If you don’t have a job that includes health insurance, or you can’t afford an insurance policy on your own, then consider alternative ways to afford healthcare. Although options are limited, it is important to realize that there are alternatives to going without healthcare.
Doctors and residents working with patients at the JFK clinic in St. Louis. Elizabeth Mahon, MD

1. Frequent Free Health Care Clinics

Whenever possible, visit health care clinics that offer free or significantly discounted visits. Most major cities have at least one clinic of this kind where there are no restrictions on who can receive treatment. Keep in mind, however, that there are typically long waits associated with this kind of free clinic.

2. Find Out if You Qualify for Government Funded Coverage

Before you resign yourself to paying cash for healthcare, do some research and find out if you might quality for government funded health insurance policies. While those with Medicare or Medicaid will still have some healthcare expenses, the reduction in costs is significant. Those who served in the military, are under the age of 18 or who have pre-existing conditions may be eligible for these benefits, as well as anyone over the age of 65 or with a low income.

3. Visit Dental Schools for Care

Many people avoid getting dental work done because of the costs. Even those people who can afford medical insurance don’t always pay the additional costs needed to afford dental coverage as well. If you need to have work done, have pain in your mouth or just want to have a checkup, consider visiting a dental school. You will receive great care and all procedures are overseen by professional licensed dentists, but the prices are sometimes as low as one-third the standard rates.

4. Negotiate Cash Prices

If you must pay for procedures, surgeries or office visits at a doctor’s office or a hospital, remember that there is room for negotiation. Offer to pay a lump sum up front rather than installation payments and remind them that if you declare bankruptcy, you won’t be able to pay anything. In some cases you can pay half the billed amount by paying right away in cash.

5. Look Forward to New Healthcare Initiatives

Some government initiatives like COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, made healthcare easier to obtain for employees, spouses and their children. New laws are constantly being passed to create similar initiatives that can help reduce your healthcare costs. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for example, will introduce new forms of medical care beginning in 2014.

6. Carefully Examine Bills Before Paying

It is easy to be overwhelmed by medical news or a surgery and simply pay any bill that comes your way. When it comes to long itemized bills, it is smart to set some time aside and carefully read through each line. You might be surprised to find treatments or medicines you don’t remember having. Ask hospital staff to explain anything you are unfamiliar with before making payments.

There is no doubt that affording healthcare without insurance is a struggle. With this guide, however, you can make the payment process easier and potentially more affordable.

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