Health insurance is one of the most important bills you might have…or not have. Your health is priceless but if I’m being honest, a lot of people in the U.S. can’t afford their high insurance premium each month.
The Affordable Care Act allows Americans to supplement the cost of their insurance if they meet certain income requirements. If your income is above those requirements, however, you could be stuck with a ridiculously high premium or deductible.
In the past, having health insurance was a requirement but through the Trump Administration, there is no tax penalty for not having insurance starting in 2019.
If your employer doesn’t provide adequate coverage options or if you freelance, you may be wondering if you can get by without health insurance. While I’m not a fan of foregoing health insurance, I did it and there are alternative ways to receive healthcare without the super high bill.
Keep in mind, there is a risk associated with not having health insurance, but if you consider yourself to be pretty healthy, you may be able to try these alternative methods.
Save Up For Medical Expenses Separately
When my husband worked at a 9-5 job we used his employer’s health insurance option but it wasn’t that good. We had to pay monthly premiums, contribute to an HSA (Health Savings Account), and still, pay medical bills.
The money we put into our HSA didn’t last because we often had to use it to pay medical bills. Once we both became self-employed, I decided to start saving for medical bills separately.
Paying a high monthly premium each month when no one was getting sick or going to the doctor was draining our finances. Instead of putting money into a premium, I set up automatic transfers to save money for doctor’s visits, dental care, etc ahead of time.
I found out that we could still see our same family doctor at her practice but for $200 as a self-pay patient. This may sound like a lot, but so is an $800 monthly premium plus a co-payment.
Enroll in a Health Sharing Ministry
It’s pretty difficult to carry the burden of paying for all of your medical care out of pocket. That’s why you may want to consider signing up with a health sharing ministry as a supplement. Christian health sharing ministries are a great option for people who don’t have health insurance because they provide you with some coverage for larger medical expenses. Plus, they are much cheaper.
Once you qualify to become a member, you must pay a monthly fee which can be compared to your premium. This money goes toward another member’s medical expenses for that month if you don’t have any.
If you have a medical bill, you can submit it for sharing after paying your annual unshared amount (AUA) which is comparable to a deductible. Liberty Healthshare and Christian Healthcare Ministries are two of the most popular healthcare ministries around.
Liberty only charges $249 per month for individuals under 30 and $479 per month for young families. Their annual unshared amount is $1,000 which is much better than the $12,000 deductible my family had under the affordable care act.
Healthshare ministries can be used to help you cover large doctor bills, surgeries, and other expenses that qualify. When I had Liberty 3 years ago, they helped me cover an expensive surgery thus saving me thousands of dollars. Just be sure to read the guidelines carefully and call to ask questions before you sign up.
Utilize Urgent Care Over the ER
If you have a medical emergency, consider going to the urgent care over the emergency room. An ER visit can result in some of the highest medical bills when you could receive similar care by going to a local urgent care clinic.
The urgent care in my area charges $150 for a basic visit and examination. This is much better than the $1,000 you’d have to pay for going to the ER.
Urgent care also seems to be less crowded as well which can help you get in and out quickly. Check to see where your nearest urgent care is and their hours. You may be able to find a 24-hour location.
Use a Prescription Discount Card
Once you receive care, realize that some prescription costs can tip the scale in terms of your overall expenses. Sign up for free prescription discounts with companies like Good RX so you can save on your medication if you don’t have health insurance.
I love Good RX because you can get discounts right on the spot if you download their app. You don’t really have to sign up for anything and the process is pretty easy.
Switch to a Self-Pay Friendly Provider
Another tip to help you get by without health insurance is to visit a self-pay friendly provider. It’s true, most providers assume you have health insurance and may give you a funny look when they find out that you don’t.
On the other hand, there are several others who are more than willing to work with you as a self-pay patient. I was lucky enough to find out that our family doctor we used when we had insurance was still available to us as a self-pay patient.
I’ve also gone to clinics in my area that offer a sliding-fee scale for appointments and check-ups.
Negotiate Medical Bills
Don’t forget to negotiate to help lighten the burden of medical bills. See if you can get on an affordable payment plan or try to lower the bill altogether.
Some hospitals have a program that patients can apply for that gets a portion of their medical bill paid. I once settled a $1,000 hospital bill for around $700 because the provider was eager to have me pay it up fast. Just start by asking and being honest and you’ll find that a lot of people may be willing to work with you.
At The End of the Day, It Is a Gamble
Trying to get by without health insurance is a major gamble. Insurance exists for a reason. While it may sound like a waste of money to pay high premiums, you’ll still have something to fall back on in the events that you need extensive care.
Some of the options I mentioned above may work for a young and healthy family but it may often be a temporary solution. As you get older, you’ll be more likely to need additional medical care. Open enrollment will be starting soon for healthcare and I advise everyone to fill out an application and at least look at your options to see what’s available.
Going without health insurance should be a last resort but options like self-pay and health share ministries can still help you prioritize your health.
Do you have insurance through your employer? Do you know how much it’s costing you each month?