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Get Medical Treatment Even if You Can't Afford Health Insurance

Updated on March 12, 2014
Don't suffer in silence.
Don't suffer in silence.

Despite the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act (PPACA), many people still can't afford health insurance, and it could be years before they get subsidized care. That’s the bad news, the good news is that there are ways that you can get medical treatment now, even if you don’t currently have health insurance. More than 52 million Americans do not have any type of health insurance. Millions more are severely under-insured, or their policies have such large deductibles and co-pays that they still can’t afford to see the doctor. If you or a family member need care, don’t suffer at home. Options are available.

Emergency Care

Federal law prohibits hospitals from turning away patients who seek emergency medical care. What constitutes “an emergency” is subjective, although many hospitals will treat anyone who walks into the ER. Save this option for serious problems, high fevers, prolonged illnesses, symptoms that persist and injuries.

Emergency room bills can be very high, but there is a good chance that you can have them waived if you act immediately upon being released from the hospital. Before you go home – go to the hospital billing office in person and ask to talk to a billing representative. Explain that you can't afford health insurance and that you don’t have the money to pay the hospital bill.

The office might set you up on minimum monthly payments, but they could also waive most or all of your bill. If you’re out of work, make sure to inform the billing office. The most important thing is to do this immediately. If you wait, the billing office will send your account through their system, and when that happens, it’s much harder to have the bill forgiven.

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act

The EMTALA is a federal law that covers many aspects of healthcare and prohibits employers from terminating your health insurance if you get laid off. You may have heard of COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which was passed in 1986. COBRA allows laid off employees to continue to pay into a pool to extend their health coverage after losing a job.

If you’re out of work, can't afford health insurance, and need assistance in determining if you qualify for COBRA coverage, you can get help at the United States Department of Labor website.

Medicaid Assistance

Medicaid is a government-subsidized plan that pays for healthcare for those who truly cannot afford to pay any of their own healthcare costs. Although the AHA will change the structure of Medicaid, slightly, it will still be available to citizens in need. See if you qualify for assistance from Medicaid.

The AHA, or Obamacare health act, will expand Medicaid to more citizens who can't afford health insurance.

Get Health Care from Universities and Learning Centers

This often-overlooked source of free or reduced medical care is a great option for those who live near a learning center or university where medical students are studying to be doctors.

Help isn’t limited to general medical care either, if you’re near a dental school or a college of optometry, you might be able to have dental work and vision checks performed at no cost, or for a minimal fee.

Volunteer for Medical Tests if You Can't Afford Health Insurance

Sometimes, the best way to receive cutting-edge medical treatments, even if you can't afford health insurance, is to volunteer for medical testing for your specific condition. This benefit is often limited to larger communities with teaching hospitals or research centers, where medical scientists and doctors are in the final stages of approving a new drug or treatment. Call a medical university to be put on their mailing list to receive advance notice of upcoming tests.

Getting your bill waived isn't a secret. Talk to your doctor.
Getting your bill waived isn't a secret. Talk to your doctor.

Talk to Your Doctor

Doctors pull strings. You might be turned down for free help by a nurse or a medical receptionist but if you mention your financial need to the doctor, he can make arrangements for you to receive the tests and care you need free of charge. He can also waive his own fee. Don’t ask, “Can I have this test for free?” instead, tell your doctor that you’re afraid you’ll have to pass on the test or care routine he suggests because you can't afford health insurance. From there, he will either help you make financial arrangements – or point you to a public health service where you can be treated. In addition, ask your doctor for “sample” prescriptions. Drug companies often leave large quantities of drugs they want doctors to start prescribing and you can have these for free…just for the asking.


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      Ted Smith 2 years ago

      I would agree that you should get medical treatment even if you can't afford health insurance. It is better to get treated than let the problem persist and get worse. Plus, you don't know if your condition will cause other problems.