What Can You Do If You Can’t Afford Health Insurance?
There are a number of options for people who can’t afford expensive health insurance premiums or co-pays. Not all of them will apply to everybody, but hopefully as you make your way down this list, you’ll find some useful ideas to help you get the coverage that you need.
We understand that not everybody grows up in an environment where healthy living is a priority, and not everybody learns how to take great care of themselves from a young age, and sometimes the damage is already done by the time you start to become more aware of these things – but you can always take steps to improve your health, at any age. We encourage our readers of all ages to take steps towards better health, and to find the best healthcare plans to take care of the things you can’t always control.
Medicaid is a state-based assistance program for low-income individuals, families and children, pregnant women, elderly, and disabled people. Other than a small co-payment, Medicaid patients usually don’t pay for any covered medical expenses.
Eligibility requirements and covered services vary between states, so it’s best to contact your local Medicaid office directly for the most accurate information.
In some states, Medicaid is available to any adult under a certain income bracket. To determine if you qualify, you’ll need to check with your state’s current legislation.
Understand the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.
2. Subsidized Health Care
If your income falls below a certain level, you might qualify for subsidized healthcare coverage like a Marketplace insurance plan that includes premium tax credits, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicaid.
In states with expanded Medicaid coverage, your household income must fall below 138% of the federal poverty level to qualify.
In all states, your income must fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level to qualify for premium tax credits.
3. Catastrophic Health Plans
Catastrophic health care plans act as a type of emergency healthcare coverage. It helps by covering expenses that may not be covered by government healthcare plans or may extend existing healthcare coverage during a medical emergency.
The main benefit of a catastrophic healthcare plan is the low monthly premium. The downside is, these plans include very high deductibles that must be reached before healthcare coverage begins.
Individuals under the age of 30 are eligible for catastrophic healthcare coverage. You may also be eligible if you are over the age of 30 and qualify for a hardship exemption. A hardship is any financial or similar circumstance that prevents you from obtaining healthcare coverage. This includes homelessness, eviction, bankruptcy, domestic violence, and more.
4. Mini Clinics
If you don’t have healthcare coverage, look into mini clinics that may be operating in nearby drug stores or supermarkets. These clinics offer similar care as a primary care physician or urgent care clinic at a reduced cost (up to 80% less!) without requiring insurance.
There are currently over 1,400 standalone clinics located throughout the country with more being built each year. These clinics typically do not require an appointment, so you can walk in at any time during regular business hours. At some locations, this may include evening and weekend care for added convenience.
The downside to a mini clinic is the limited availability of some services including x-rays, stitches, and treatment for chronic illnesses. For serious ailments, you may be transferred to an urgent care facility or hospital to receive the best treatment. You can phone several clinics to ask how much they charge for their services. If your plan is to go without insurance (Not necessarily a plan but a necessity), it’s still a good idea to put away some cash, if you can, to cover these types of bills and expenses.
While AFLAC supplemental insurance isn’t exactly health insurance, it can help pay for specified out-of-pocket medical expenses. With options that cost less than $100, it is more affordable than traditional health insurance but the downside is, it isn’t comprehensive so it’s limited to specific conditions. For example, you can purchase an AFLAC plan that will help cover the cost of cancer treatments.
Another thing to consider is that medical clinics won’t bill AFLAC. Instead, you will be reimbursed by the company directly. That means you’ll need to cover the upfront costs, and then you’ll wait on being reimbursed, which isn’t ideal for people who are living paycheck to paycheck or simply don’t have the cash. You may need to find a healthcare provider that can work with you on this.
6. For seniors: Medicare
Most seniors are on a fixed income which can make buying health insurance even more difficult. Luckily, Medicare is an option for most Americans over the age of 65 and can help relieve most of the financial burden related to covering health care costs.
Original Medicare is composed of Part A and Part B with optional Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (prescription drug coverage). For most seniors, Part A is free with automatic enrollment shortly before turning 65. Part B has a reasonable monthly premium ($144.60 as of 2020) and covers most of a senior’s healthcare needs.
Medicare Advantage combines Original Medicare and a prescription drug plan for a similar cost to Original Medicare making it an effective money-saver if you have a lot of regular prescriptions to pay for. Otherwise you can enroll in Original Medicare with the option of enrolling in a stand alone prescription drug plan (Part D).
7. Take Care of Yourself
While you can’t prevent all injuries and illnesses, taking care of your health and body can go a long way towards saving money on expensive medical bills. Going beyond eating a healthy well-balanced diet, exercising, and drinking your eight cups of water each day, it’s important to avoid dangerous situations too. This could mean abstaining from frequent alcohol consumption, reckless driving, and activities like contact sports where injuries are most common.
Obesity is one of the most dangerous ways to live your life. Losing even a few pounds here and there can drastically increase your positive health outcomes. There are a number of reasons that can cause someone to eat to a point of becoming obese, and losing weight is easier said than done, but if the fear of health complications later on can help motivate you at all, go with it because it can make a significant difference in the long run. Losing weight can help reverse a lot of health issues. You don’t need to buy any weird diet pills, or do any fad diets at all – simply start walking or moving around a bit more, and eating a bit less. That’s a good start. It’s about momentum, so once you get going, it will get easier and easier.
8. Ask about Over-the-Counter Alternatives
If you have been prescribed a prescription-only medication and you don’t have health insurance, it may be worth asking your pharmacist for an Over-the-Counter alternative. While there aren’t OTC alternatives for all prescription medication, sometimes you can find cheaper alternatives for some medications, including sleep aids and pain relievers. While they might not be the same strength as a prescription medication, these substitutions can do the job in some cases.
Of course, this is really a case-by-case basis, and in many instances, there simply won’t be an alternative that you can buy over-the-counter. This is where prevention becomes your best option if you don’t have prescription drug coverage. Prescriptions can be insanely expensive. In some cases, your doctor may have some samples available to hand you, but you shouldn’t rely on this either.
Pharmacists are generally pretty good about knowing what alternatives may work for you, and while you’ll still need to pay for the OTC alternative, it can still end up saving you a decent amount.
9. Have kids? Get them on a plan
While you may not be able to afford health insurance for yourself, there are plans like Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) available to help cover the cost of your child(ren)’s health care.
CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid support. Rules and eligibility varies between states, so for the best information it’s a good idea to check with your local state agency. You can apply for CHIP anytime without worrying about enrollment deadlines.
10. Look outside of the Exchange
Instead of looking at the healthcare exchange for a health insurance plan, look into buying directly from an insurance agent or broker to help reduce costs. Not only are plans typically cheaper, they are required to meet the same minimum coverage standards as plans sold on the exchange. That said, the cost of a healthcare plan purchased through an independent insurance agent or broker depends largely on where you live, so you aren’t guaranteed to find a good deal.
We can help you navigate the confusing waters of looking for coverage, in or outside of the exchange. Sometimes, outside of the exchange, you may end up paying a similar price but you could end up with a higher level of coverage, making it a better value overall. This is good if you can afford it, but not much help if you can’t.
11. Download our eBook
We’ve put together a very helpful and free eBook all about Medicare to help you understand everything you need to know. It won’t solve all of your problems if you’re having trouble affording health insurance, but it will tell you give you the information that you need to make informed decisions. You can visit our homepage to learn more and to get your free copy instantly.