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Let’s face it. Traditional health insurance is just getting more expensive despite national efforts to reduce costs. While The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows millions to choose a government-subsidized healthcare plan, many don’t qualify. And if you do, the deductibles are so high that health insurance becomes umbrella coverage. It rarely saves you any money.
It’s no surprise many choose not to participate for these reasons. But at the same time, not having health insurance can be terrifying. What if you or your child were in an accident? What if you get a late diagnosis for a bad disease because you didn’t see a doctor for five years?
While scary, you do have some options.
1. Online Doctor Subscription Services
It’s like a club where you gain exclusive access to highly-respected doctors and other services. After paying a subscription fee, you’ll pay a low, transparent fee for each service you need. Their fees are often as low as half what you’d pay if you weren’t a member or went to a “regular doctor”.
It’s 2022, so yes, you can see an online doctor and get other virtual care through many of these subscription plans. Services usually include but aren’t limited to preventive care, specialty care, urgent care, pediatrics, sexual health, chronic care management, and more.
Additionally, you may have exclusive online features, apps, and tools to manage your care as a subscriber. For example, you could get access to FAQ platforms. Here real doctors answer people’s common medical questions. Compare that to most of the random answers you get on the Internet.
AI-powered but human doctor-approved symptom checkers can also help you learn about your symptoms and treatments. That way, you can have a more informed discussion with your doctor.
2. Temporary Health Insurance
Temporary insurance can be an alternative to paying for insurance year after year and never using it. But this won’t be a great solution for everyone. It may work out for people who are generally healthy and good planners.
If you know you have some major medical expenses on the horizon, you could get a temporary policy. Then get those covered services done before it expires. You could stock up on a regular medicine you take or get all of your screenings out of the way.
Just keep in mind that the policy may have a waiting period for certain payouts to avoid abuse. And they could refuse to pay for pre-existing conditions. Read the policy to be sure you know what you’re buying.
A short-term policy will also typically cost more per month than an annual one. They recognize that those who get them may want to do just what you plan to do.
That said, it could still work out in your favor. Do crunch some numbers to see if this option saves you money. If not, you may find others on the list that do.
3. Primary Care Membership Plans
This one is similar to the subscription service. But it only gives you access to primary care. That means you can stay current on annual screenings and checkups provided in primary care.
You’ll also have someone to go to if you need antibiotics, regular medication refills, and other similar primary services. These plans usually cover pediatric primary care if you get a child or family plan.
However, as a primary care plan, it won’t give you access to specialty care, surgery coverage, medicine, or facilities if you need it. So those will be out of pocket. This may, however, be a good solution for some people.
4. Start a “Health” Savings Account
Health is in quotes for a reason. First of all, a Health Savings Account (HSA) is a savings account where you put pre-tax money to spend on healthcare. Putting money in pre-tax can save 25-37% on healthcare. Plus, you can invest that money and let it grow.
You can use this money for other things health insurance doesn’t cover, like dental, mental health, vision, over-the-counter medication, an online doctor, and alternative medicine prescribed by a medical doctor. However, you must have a high deductible health insurance plan to qualify. So it only works if you do have insurance.
If you have no insurance, you could set up a “health” savings account. It’s not an HSA, per se. You don’t get tax benefits. But it can make not having insurance less terrifying because you do have some money to fall back on. You can use it for many of the same expenses you would use an HSA for.
And if you spend more than 7.5% of your gross income on these expenses, you can deduct it from your taxes to reduce your tax bill. That could save you the 25-37% mentioned earlier if you itemize deductions. But note, if you take the standard deduction instead, you cannot get this deduction on top of that.
5. Negotiate Your Bill Down
Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid negotiate lower rates with medical providers. They pay 70% or less of the bill in some cases, including how much you pay if insured. And the doctors aren’t allowed to charge you the difference if they agree to these terms.
In many cases, they have no choice. They have to agree to the cut-rate payment or get paid nothing.
For this reason, many medical providers have to raise their prices for everyone to make up for those losses. Now, some doctors, such as certain online doctors, steer clear of this nonsense to keep their costs reasonable. But most of the time, if you’re going to a doctor or facility that takes insurance, you get billed this inflated rate.
That said, you can often negotiate your bill down fairly easily by simply asking, especially if you can make the case that you don’t have the money.
No Insurance Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
It can be terrifying not to have insurance. But with a bit of planning and a look at the numbers, you can find practical ways to save money and navigate a broken and expensive healthcare system more confidently.