Although it is recommended that everyone have at least medical insurance, it can be very expensive if your employer does not pay for it. Plus, navigating the health insurance market can seem downright chaotic and nerve-wracking. About 10% (PDF) of Americans had no health insurance in 2020, and most of those who are uninsured because they can’t afford it or aren’t eligible for financial assistance in their state.
But everyone needs to go to the doctor sometimes. So what are you doing?
First, you may qualify for financial assistance from Medicaid depending on your circumstances and location, and you may also qualify for Medicare. Even if you’ve checked in the past, it’s worth checking your state’s Medicaid eligibility as it has been expanded to most states. You can also complete this application to see which government assistance programs you qualify for. Additionally, there are plans that are.
If these plans aren’t right for you, you’re not short of options. Here are tips for getting quality care when you’re paying out of pocket.
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Take advantage of free preventive care and screenings
Some cities or pharmacies organize pop-up events that organize simple blood tests or health examinations. Keep an eye out for these events and take advantage of them, as they can help you keep tabs on your health and hopefully avoid more doctor visits or medical procedures.
In New York, for example, the state health department says it offers free breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer screening to uninsured people in the state. If you have a health condition you want to check out, searching for “free screening/testing near me” wouldn’t be a bad way to start in case there are opportunities nearby.
Always tell your doctor and reception that you don’t have health insurance
Doctors’ job is to take care of you, and that includes making sure you have access to the care they recommend. Before going into the details of where to go for health care and when, it is a good idea to let the person registering you for your appointment know that you are uninsured and that you will pay out of pocket. This way, they can give you the available payment options, which may include a payment plan or mobile payment scale if you qualify.
Use telemedicine for primary care/non-emergency doctor visits
Telemedicine is not going anywhere. And according toyou use, you could save money by making an online doctor’s visit, regardless of your insurance status.
If you don’t have health insurance, K Health is a good option for people looking for general primary care. For $35 you can make an appointment with a doctor to discuss a problem or manage a pre-existing condition. K Health also says you can start a monthly subscription plan starting at $29 for unlimited primary care visits.
What sets K Health apart from other telemedicine services is its symptom search tool, which allows you to enter all of your symptoms and see some of the most common diagnoses of people with similar symptoms who have been officially diagnosed. .
Another great option if you don’t have health insurance is Sesame, which is a simple telehealth site for booking a cheap doctor’s appointment online (sometimes as low as $20). Their website is designed in such a way that you can search for a doctor and you can also schedule an appointment in person, although the in-person price may be higher.
Go to walk-in clinics and shop around to find ones that have pay scales
If you have a health condition that requires hands-on healing from a provider that telemedicine simply cannot provide, you should shop around for local walk-in clinics, community health centers, or medical facilities. similar health care. These facilities will likely be much cheaper than paying out of pocket at a hospital or private practice, but you should be prepared to pay a fee up front. A popular walk-in clinic for non-emergencies is the CVS MinuteClinic.
Community health clinics often have a mobile payment scale available if you cannot afford the full cost, but you may need to bring proof of eligibility (such as pay stubs). Luckily, some community clinics have a “no patient turned away for lack of funds” policy, which is helpful if you can’t afford the fees. You can search for a health center at decreasing rates on this federal directory. Some public hospitals also offer decreasing rates.
Some community centers are designed to serve specific populations such as LGBTQ+ people, homeless people or musicians. It’s worth checking if any of them apply to you.
Examine direct primary care
Another health care model that is gaining popularity is direct primary care, where you pay a monthly fee to the health care provider instead of the insurance company, which can allow you a deeper relationship with your doctor in addition to cheaper bills. This model should work well for many uninsured patients requiring regular checkups, but you may need to undergo additional testing or referrals, if necessary. Here is a map to help you find a DPC facility near you.
Go to the emergency room if it is a real emergency
If you are injured or your life is in danger, call 911 or go directly to the emergency room. Regardless of your ability to pay or health insurance status, doctors are legally required to treat anyone facing a medical emergency. Although medical bills can be daunting, your health is worth more than any dollar amount.
When you check in or check out you can tell the front desk that you are uninsured and they can help you work out a payment plan. You should also tell your doctor that you are uninsured in case this changes and suggest a follow-up appointment or follow-up care plan, if you need it.
If you have a medical emergency and your life (or part of your body) is in danger, go to the emergency room. Doctors will stabilize and treat you regardless of your ability to pay. If you have a less urgent (but still fairly urgent) health issue, urgent care centers are usually much cheaper than ERs and can treat things like sprains, wounds, and non-life-threatening pain.
Negotiate when you get the medical bill
If you receive the bill in the mail and are surprised to see what is on it, call the hospital and ask for an itemized version, or review all charges to make sure you were billed correctly. Then if you still can’t pay, see if they’ll lower it.
If they can’t reduce it, ask to set up a payment plan. Tell them what you are able and willing to pay, and someone from the billing department will most likely be able to sort things out with you.
Do your research before the appointment so you don’t agree to unnecessary tests
The days of WebMD diagnostics are over. If you know how to research it, there is plenty of credible health information publicly available online. It’s important not to panic about being diagnosed with cancer when typing your headache symptoms. But we’ve come a long way in 2022, and some of the advice and research that sheds light on up-to-date diagnoses and treatments for common illnesses is just an internet search away, with insights from reputable medical organizations.
For example, if you need to go to the gynecologist, you can find information on different reproductive health topics from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is a large medical college that helps guide standard of care. for OB-GYN practice in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics helps guide standards of care in the United States for health care workers who treat children.
Large hospital systems, like the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, are also good online sources to check before an appointment to see what treatment might be recommended for your health condition, so you’re not completely caught off guard by a test (or you could see if another treatment option might be more affordable but just as effective). The American Task Force on Preventive Services is another institution you can refer to for testing and preventive care. And the one we’ve all known since the pandemic: the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is constantly updating its disease and public health guidelines.
These are just a few sources that rely on current medical information. While searching online, be sure to check the date on the page that indicates when the article or page was last published. These colleges and institutes continually update health advice and information to reflect new research on patient treatment.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.
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