Health insurance is great, and if you can, I definitely recommend getting some sort of health insurance, even if it’s just catastrophic insurance. But not everyone is in that financial situation, so let’s talk about how to live without health insurance.
Minor Medical Issues Without Health Insurance
I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely managed to go entire years without needing any sort of minor medical care. (Of course, I do go in for an annual physical.) So it’s easy to think that you just won’t need it. But what happens if you cut yourself and need stitches or come down with a bad case of strep throat that you just can’t kick and know you need antibiotics.
Before you find yourself in that position, plan ahead. Check out local healthcare options in your area. Are there urgent care facilities in your area? Call around and find out their prices. Check out what you might pay for an appointment or an x-ray.
You may also want to look into concierge doctors. There is one in my area where you pay $150 for an annual membership, and they will tell you the costs for appointments, often around $150. Not the cheapest, by any means, but they make the information very clear and are often willing to work with you regarding insurance issues.
You can also talk with the providers and let them know you don’t have insurance and see what you can figure out. Sometimes, costs can be cut, or they can skip tests that normally would be done and charged to insurance.
Major Medical Issues Without Health Insurance
So you live without health insurance and something big happens. You fall and break your arm. You get into a car crash. You find our your gallbladder has gone rogue and you need surgery.
This is definitely a tough situation, and it’s going to be expensive, but you can get through this. The first step is to talk with the hospital billing department and let them know you’re paying out of pocket because you don’t have insurance. Oftentimes, they have reduced rates that they can charge you. When I had surgery in 2019, one of the bills I got from the hospital was for over $20,000, and because of the deal they had with my insurance, the insurance paid under $4000 – and I didn’t have to pay a single cent. Maybe that reduced rate could be made available to you as an uninsured person.
Once you get those reduced rates, don’t think you just need to put the bill on a credit card. Ask the hospital if they can set you up with a payment plan. Many times, the hospitals are happy to work with you. After all, it’s better for them to be getting small amounts of money coming in on a bill than having to chase you down to try to get money they may never get. And frequently, as long as you continue to make payments on the bill, they won’t apply any pressure to get you to pay faster.
Is There a Happy Medium?
Depending on your situation, you may be able to buy catastrophic only health insurance. These basically cover the big situations, but your costs are much higher for small things. Only some people are eligible under the federal plans – if you’re under 30 or you can prove that the costs of the other plans are unaffordable.
I definitely recommend looking into getting some kind of healthcare if you can. Even a plan that doesn’t seem to cover much will help a lot if the unexpected occurs. As I mentioned, I had years where I was incredibly healthy and didn’t need any sort of additional appointments (though I did get yearly physicals). Then I was in a bike crash, caused by another rider, and I ended up in the ER and needing minor surgery. The pre-insurance bill was astronomical, but with insurance, I barely paid anything. Healthcare bills can absolutely create some major financial hardships. It’s not fair, and insurance should be more affordable, but this is our current situation, and you should be able to find a good balance for you, whether or not you decide to live without health insurance.
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