What To Do If You Absolutely Can’t Afford Health Insurance is one of the most popular articles that I’ve written on this website. But it was written back in 2012, and my family and I have had to make significant changes in our health insurance during that time. I’d like to take this opportunity to share what we’ve learned. Herewith, What to do if You Absolutely Can’t Afford Health Insurance 2015.
Also, that time frame has seen the rollout of Obamacare, and that’s resulted in more than a few changes to the whole health insurance system. Speaking of which, wasn’t Obamacare supposed to ensure that all Americans would have health insurance?
Hardly. And that’s another major reason why it’s time for an update on this topic.
According to Obamacare Facts, 16.4 million people have signed up for health insurance through the Obamacare health insurance exchanges through March 15, 2015. Close to 10 million of these sign-ups have obtained coverage through Medicaid, while some 5.7 million represent 19-25 year olds who have been able to stay on their parents policies as a result of changes in the healthcare law that were part of Obamacare.
That means two things:
- Since Medicaid and young adults staying on their parents polices make up nearly all of the people who “got coverage” as a result of Obamacare, only a few hundred thousand actually purchased private coverage on the exchanges, and
- Since there were some 50 million people going without health insurance prior to Obamacare, and 16.4 million now have it as a result, that still leaves at least 33.6 million people who are still uninsured – despite the penalties for not having coverage. In fact, the Gallup organization confirms that 11.9% of the adult population in the US are still uninsured.
Health Insurance Hardfact #1: Obamacare did nothing to address the issue of health insurance affordability. Unless you’re at or near the impossibly low poverty line for your state. That’s left most of the middle class no better off than they were before – except for the penalties for not having coverage, which means most are actually worse off.
If you’re one of the 33 million still uninsured – or afraid of becoming one of them – this article is written for you.
Here’s what I’ve learned about health insurance over the past year. Hopefully some of these strategies will be useful for you as well.
Part-time Jobs With Health Insurance
This is another health insurance topic that I covered way back when, mostly as a theory just in case I needed it for my family. Well it turns out that here in 2015, that theory became our reality. This is why I wrote an updated post on this topic as well, 20 Part-Time Jobs With Health Insurance. This is not a theory suggestion, but one my wife and I are currently part of, so please consider it seriously.
When my family and I moved from Georgia to New Hampshire last November, we also gave up the health insurance coverage that we had through my wife’s full-time job. But in late January, she landed a part-time job with a credit union here in New Hampshire that includes health insurance coverage. We’ve been on this plan since February 1st.
Based on my research on this topic, there are quite a few employers who offer part-time jobs with health insurance. If you’re unable to get health insurance in any other affordable way, this is an option that’s well worth investigating. Please see my post for more details. I’m encouraged by the results of the research, and it is our reality right now.
Obamacare – Take the Cheapest Plan Possible/Get Your Kids Covered
Earlier this year we actually did take a deep foray into the Obamacare health insurance exchanges and decided to pass on the coverage. It wasn’t nearly as affordable as the official hype indicated. The best we came up with was $741 per month for me and my wife, and that’s with a $6,000 deductible. And that didn’t include coverage for our kids, who are considered to be “separate households” because each have an income and file an income tax return.
My suggestion is to get the least expensive policy that you can find, since even bad health insurance is usually better than having none at all. And even if you can’t afford it for your whole family, at least get coverage for your children. The health insurance exchanges are seriously complicated, and I am not even aware if you can get coverage for your children only. If you can, the coverage should be fairly inexpensive, since age is a factor in determining premium rates. One of the limits of course, is that you can only get coverage during the open enrollment period, that runs from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, though it’s been extended through April 30 this year for certain situations.
One of the good things that has come out of Obamacare is that Medicaid has been greatly expanded. And based on the statistics, close to two thirds of the people who have obtained coverage through the exchanges did so through Medicaid.
I did some unintentional research on Medicaid, since my kids were each covered by it for all of about two weeks before being disqualified based on verified income. It’s actually a pretty good program that covers just about everything. There are little or no co-pays, and there are no premiums to pay.
The problem with Medicaid is income qualification. The income numbers are pretty low. As an example, here in New Hampshire, an income that exceeds $1,300 per month will disqualify you from the program, and that’s for a single person (that was how my kids got booted off, and they’re only 20 and 19 and holding part-time jobs.)
Still it’s worth looking into Medicaid if you believe you qualify based on the income limits. But I am almost certain that you must apply through the insurance exchanges, which will then refer you to Medicaid if it looks like you qualify. Otherwise you will be offered a private plan through the exchange.
Auto Insurance Medical Rider
My family had no health insurance coverage back in December. But since we had moved to New Hampshire in November, we switched our car insurance in December.
Under our Georgia policy we had a $1,000 medical rider, that will cover medical costs that are uncovered by your health insurance, or apply if you have no health insurance at all. Since we had no health insurance at the time, I increased the medical rider to $10,000.
It resulted in only a very small increase in the monthly auto insurance premium. And I don’t remember for certain, but I think that the medical benefit can be substantially higher. No, it’s not comprehensive medical coverage, but it will offer medical benefits in the event of an auto accident. That’s actually one of the most common reasons for needing medical coverage in the first place.
Create a Cash Flow and Dedicate it to Paying for Health Insurance
Despite Obamacare, cost continues to be a major obstacle for the uninsured. It may be necessary to create a cash flow that is specifically dedicated to paying for health insurance. That can mean taking a part-time job or creating a side business and using the income strictly to pay your health insurance premiums.
Having health insurance coverage is sufficiently important to warrant finding extra income to pay for it. And one of the side benefits of this could be that the part-time job or side business could actually grow into something a lot more substantial in the future. It’s worth considering.
If you think that the co-payments on prescription medications have gotten expensive, you should try buying them without the benefit of a prescription drug plan. That $40 co-pay will look pretty small compared to the $300 full price of the meds.
We’ve had experience with this in the past as well. The best strategy if you don’t have prescription drug coverage, is to ask the pharmacist for a non-prescription substitute.
These are actually much more common than the average person realizes. A certain drug will be on the market as prescription only for several years, but it’s often lowered to nonprescription status later on. Two prominent examples of this process are Prilosec and Prevacid. Both were once prescription only, and now both are over-the-counter.
The difference between prescription and over-the-counter could be the difference between, say $200 and $20. You can save a lot of money just by asking a question. Naturally, if the medication is of the life-saving variety and your doctor specifically disallows substitutions, including generics, you must take the drug prescribed. But for any prescription that doesn’t rise to that level, you should see if you can go the over-the-counter route.
These have sprung up all over the place, in chain pharmacies and even in grocery stores. If you have not use them in the past, you should if you have no health insurance coverage.
We have used them at different times in the past, but most recently in January. My daughter needed to go to a doctor, and we had no health insurance. My wife took her to a mini clinic at Walgreen, and the cost was $45 for the office visit, and $71 for the prescription – $126 altogether. And yes, her condition was fully remedied as a result of the visit and the prescription.
Now even if we had coverage, we would probably be looking at a $40 co-pay on a doctor’s visit, and another $40 on the prescription, for a total of $80 out-of-pocket. So in truth, the cost of using the mini clinic was only $46 ($126, less the $80 that we would have paid even with a plan).
That’s not a bad arrangement, if you consider that having a family plan will easily of cost over $1,000 per month. Obviously, mini clinics won’t help in the case of a serious medical issue, and certainly not for a medical catastrophe. But they’re perfect for those routine doctor visits for colds, flu, ear infections and minor injuries.
Take REALLY Good Care of Your Health
If you don’t have health insurance, it’s more important than ever that you take care of your health. Ignoring your health and going without health insurance is a double risk, and it will be just a question of time before it becomes a real problem.
You don’t necessarily have to do anything extraordinary here, but you should adopt better habits. Some of those include:
- Slow down when you’re driving, and pay close attention to other traffic on the road
- Wear your seat belts, even if it isn’t required by law
- Avoid dangerous activities, those likely to result in injuries
- Lose a few pounds, it can make a difference
- Start a regular exercise program, even walking a couple of miles a day can make a positive difference
- Quit smoking, especially if health insurance looks unaffordable for the foreseeable future
- Avoid excess alcohol consumption, especially when driving
- Make healthier eating choices wherever possible
- Do your best to control your stress levels
I realize that this is standard medical advice for the entire population, but its even more important if you don’t have health insurance.
Check Out Some Websites Dedicated to the Uninsured
This is a single article dealing with what to do when you absolutely can’t afford health insurance. But there are entire websites that offer a wealth of information, and usually much more specific information at that.
I strongly recommend you become a regular reader of Sean Parnell’s The Self-Pay Patient. The site has many articles discussing cash-only medical providers, and the amount of money that you’ll save going that route. There’s also plenty of articles covering other topics related to the uninsured. Obamacare is causing new trends to develop in healthcare, and you need to know what’s going on.
If you don’t have health insurance, you do have to begin developing contingency plans for what you will do if you have a major medical event. Some research now can save you a mad scramble later, when emotions may be clouding your judgment. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and that applies when it comes to healthcare and health insurance as well.
I’m not recommending that anyone use any of these strategies as a replacement for traditional health insurance coverage. If you can get affordable coverage, then you absolutely should. But if not, these are methods that me and my family have used successfully both now and at different times in the past. The first, best option is always to have a good health insurance plan. But if you don’t, I hope you will find some benefit or inspiration from this article.
Do you have any other suggestions for what a person who absolutely can’t afford health insurance can do as an alternative, or a set of alternatives? If you’re currently going without health insurance, what are you doing to pay for medical treatment when necessary?