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What to Do if You Can't Afford Health Insurance

    It may be tempting to forgo health insurance, especially if you struggle to make ends meet. However, going without one puts your health and bank account at risk because medical emergencies happen without warning. And when they do, the bills will be costly, leading to years of debt. This is why it's crucial to have a plan for paying medical costs.

    How to pay for healthcare if you can't afford health insurance. 

    You have at least two options for paying for healthcare without the high monthly premiums. Below we break down these options and, hopefully, help you decide which plan to get.  

    Short-Term Insurance  

    These plans provide short-term coverage from three months to 364 days. Short-term insurance has lower monthly premiums, and they're a good option for those who can't afford standard health plans or those who need to bridge gaps in their health coverage, like traveling or starting a new job.

    But you get what you pay for with these plans. They are risky as they offer fewer perks and protections, so people with known health concerns or who need ongoing care, like those with limb loss, should proceed cautiously. Chances are high that those with pre-existing conditions will be turned down.

    Short-term plans are known to limit the number and dollar value of visits to healthcare providers. And they don't include coverage for expected health needs, such as maternity care or certain chronic conditions.

    Short-term insurance may work for you if you are young, healthy, and looking for a cheap way to cover healthcare for a few months.

    High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs)  

    High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) allow you to get a health plan without the high monthly premiums of standard plans. It covers many of the same services as traditional health insurance but comes with a higher deductible, hence the name. Simply put, HDHPs allow you to pay lower monthly bills, but you'll need to pay more out of pocket before the plan kicks in and pays for the rest.

    From 2020 until 2022, the deductible had to be at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family. Any extra costs out of pocket, like coinsurance, copays, and deductibles, were at most $6,900 for an individual and $13,800 for a family in 2020. In 2022, these out-of-pocket limits increased to $7,050 for an individual and $14,100 for a family.

    However, the perks of HDHPs only kick in when you've paid your monthly bill and have reached the limit. This is only when the plan covers a large portion of the costs still due while you pay a small part of the coinsurance. Copays are not included in the limit, so those will also be added to your bill.

    Typically, the best and cheapest HDHP is offered through your workplace. You can also find a cheaper option through the health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or directly through insurance companies. Furthermore, plans under the ACA may offer additional discounts based on your current financial situation, though this differs by plan and state.

    Other ways to reduce costs  

    Even with a health plan, many people still need help paying added out-of-pocket costs. For example, getting an MRI may require you to pay for your coinsurance and deductible costs. This would mean spending hundreds of dollars or more.

    Since medical tests help diagnose a condition before it becomes grave, opting out of these procedures may be risky in the long run. Addressing health issues before they become a problem is much wiser.

    Compare prices  

    If you have a health plan, you can use the search tool on your insurer's website to find doctors and hospitals within the plan's network. Doing this saves you money because network providers charge lower rates.

    However, you should compare even within the network. The range in prices between healthcare providers can be huge. This would entail allotting time to call doctors and hospitals to find one that offers affordable services.

    Set up a payment plan  

    Most clinics and hospitals allow patients to set up a payment plan to get tests and other medical procedures when needed and spread out the costs over time. This is helpful, especially if you can't afford to pay for them all at once.

    Address minor issues asap  

    Get routine health check-ups to help you avoid common diseases that can incur significant medical bills in the future. You can also take charge of your health by living a healthy lifestyle. Make eating a proper diet, getting quality sleep, exercising, and not smoking a part of your daily life. 

    And, of course, it's best to get care for minor issues before they become severe and need more costly treatment. If you don't feel well, take the time to see a doctor or your prosthetist for prosthesis concerns. This ensures you don't end up in a hospital or getting more expensive prosthetic parts.