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What to do if you can't afford health insurance

Edward Neeman | Published: June 14, 2018

Counting change

Updated: December 14, 2017

If you are looking to stay protected from unforeseen and high medical costs, getting health insurance is the way to go. However, with more people losing jobs or not finding work at all, companies canceling their insurance coverage, and the cost of insurance policies sky-rocketing, many people have had to do away with healthcare policies to ensure their families survive.

If you are one of these people who can't afford health insurance, it is good to know that there are alternatives that might help when you can't afford to pay for a traditional plan. Having one or more of these affordable health insurance plans may help you cover your family medical expenses, as well as your own. Some might even offer over $1,000 to cover for most of the things you are used to. You should check various health insurance quotes in the health insurance marketplace to decide which one you can afford.

AFLAC

It's important to note that AFLAC is not health insurance, it's considered supplemental health insurance. This means that having AFLAC will not keep you save from paying a tax penalty for lack of health coverage this year because it does not fall under the qualified health plan regulations. What AFLAC does is pay out a flat dollar amount for specific injuries or illnesses.

The way it works is similar to health insurance, you pay a monthly fee, and in the event, you fall ill or get injured, AFLAC will pay you directly the amount agreed upon. For example, if you pay $50 a month to stay protected in the event you break your leg, AFLAC will help cover the medical costs of your broken leg. The difference here is that AFLAC has a maximum amount it will pay out, and with health insurance, there would be a maximum amount you would have to pay.

The benefit here is that you are paying far less money each month than you would be for comprehensive health coverage. The drawback is that your AFLAC plan only pays for specific medical costs, and can still leave you footing the bill.  

Community Health Centers (CHC)

Community health centers have become increasingly popular with the rising cost of health insurance. These health centers focus on serving those who can't afford health insurance or are underinsured. Typically, community health centers are funded either at the federal level or locally which means the facilities may be lacking and the physicians may be limited in the medical attention they can provide.

The benefit of community health centers is that they do have to meet federal regulations in order to remain in operation, and they provide preventive care at little to no cost for those who may not be able to seek medical attention elsewhere. Also, at these health centers, it is not required that you have health insurance so no American will have to worry about choosing between their health and finances.

Going Generic

There has always been a stigma around any item that isn't name-brand. Often referred to as knock-offs, generic prescriptions do work in the same way as their name brand counterparts. The FDA has standards for all medication that hits the shelves at your local pharmacy, and often times generic prescriptions are nearly identical to the expensive drugs you were prescribed by your doctor.

Here are the standards generic drugs must meet according to the FDA:

  • Active ingredients must be the same as the name brand counterpart.
  • The same strength, use medications, form, and administration (such as oral or topical).
  • Inactive ingredients must be acceptable and meet FDA standards.
  • Labels and shipping methods are appropriate. 

If you have a primary care physician, make sure to discuss generic options with them, or you can talk to your local pharmacist to learn more about your different prescription options. Going generic will often save you money, and typically don't require a prescription.

Buy the Cheapest Plan Available

If push comes to shove, consider getting a cheap health insurance that covers the 10 essential health benefits. If you are under 30 years old, and money is tight, you can also get a health plan known as catastrophic health coverage Although such covers won't cover all your needs, they will surely help lessen the burden of the hospital bills. There are some very cheap health insurance plans available to you through both the health insurance marketplace and private health sector. Explore your options!

Health Savings Accounts

Health savings accounts, also known as HSA's, give you the opportunity to set aside money specifically for eligible medical expenses. Setting up a health savings accounts help you set aside extra money, and here's how. The funds that are put into your HSA are tax-free! You can talk to your employer about setting one up, and from there, anyone can input funds which protects you from unforeseen medical expenses. Health savings accounts can also be a good way to use your money for investments tax-free and can build up your rainy day funds. 

Priorities

Picking and choosing who gets coverage is never an easy decision, but in some instances, it may be cheaper to insure the person in your family who requires the most medical attention. For example, if you and your partner can only afford coverage for one of you, it may be beneficial to take a look at medical histories. 

If you are active, young, and generally in good health, while your partner struggles with respiratory disease and diabetes, it may be more cost-effective for you to go without health insurance while your partner finds coverage. The reason being is that without coverage you may be paying more out-of-pocket for doctor visits and medication than you would with coverage. Of course, the ideal situation is for both of you to find coverage, but if it's not feasible, make sure whoever needs coverage has it.  

Government Programs

Be on the lookout to know what the available coverage options through Medicaid are for those who cannot afford healthcare insurance. Although the income qualifications are stiff, certain states have lowered their qualifications for government subsidies. it is worth a try to find health insurance quotes that will, at least, get your children covered and maybe even get other benefits.

Medicaid

This is health coverage from the federal government for the eligible parties. State governments have taken upon themselves to maintain the program. There are over 70% of people who have taken advantage of this program, making it one of the biggest health coverage in the USA. You might be required to pay premiums to access this coverage, depending on your area of residence. Also, you have to provide copayments. This is definitely a cheap health insurance.

Those who qualify for this program have less financial resources or have challenges obtaining any medical insurance. They include:

  • Low-income earners
  • Disabled
  • Elderly (65 years old and over)
  • Children
  • Pregnant women

If you make over 150% of the poverty line, you will be expected to pay for access to this medical insurance plan. Children and pregnant women might be exempted from making copayments as they are considered vulnerable.

This program covers the same things covered by other medical care insurers apart from prescription drugs.

Obamacare

It is the name used to refer to the Affordable Care Act, which happens to be a law passed by the government with a sole intention of offering cheap health insurance for all citizens.

This act requires citizens to have a health insurance plan, and tax penalties are incurred for non-compliance.

Medicare

It is a medical insurance funded by the federal government to cover people who are 65 years old and over. You can also become eligible before hitting 65 if you have specific disabilities or suffering from end-stage renal disease. Mostly, the people who are eligible are retired and no longer get covered by their employers' health care plans.

Medicare is paid by the federal government through social security to assist the needy. Many people get 1.45% deduction from their paycheck, which is then transferred to Medicare.

Infographic for cheap health insurance options and alternatives for people who can't afford