To put it simply, health insurance is usually expensive. For some households, it costs so much that paying for it is a financial strain. For others, an outright impossibility. To many, it feels like a burden. Particularly if they aren’t getting much use out of the coverage. But does that mean going without healthcare to save money is a smart move? And, if so, how not having health insurance help you save without putting you at undue risk? If you’re interested in trying to save more money by not having health insurance, here’s what you need to know.
The Risk of Being Without Health Insurance
First, it’s important to acknowledge that going without health insurance can be risky. Even if you are healthy, a single accident, serious illness, or major injury can be incredibly costly to cover, particularly if you are trying to handle it out of pocket.
A single emergency room visit (before insurance) can cost between $623 and $3,102 on average, depending on where you live. However, certain kinds of emergencies can run tens of thousands of dollars for a single visit to the ER.
If you have a long-term condition, managing it can come with a significant price tag, too. On average, it costs $16,752 per year to manage diabetes, for example.
However, not everyone will have to go to the emergency room or handle a long-term condition. For those individuals, health insurance is meant to be a form of protection against the unknown, as well as a resource for preventative care, decreasing the odds that a potentially dangerous condition will go unnoticed or untreated.
Saving Money by Not Having Health Insurance
On average, annual premiums come in between $4,024 and $8,540, depending on the location. Factor in that many insured individuals also contend with high deductibles (up to $7,900 for an individual, more for couples or families, using certain Affordable Care Act plans), and many people may wonder whether the expense of health insurance is worthwhile. This is especially true for anyone who is generally healthy, has no history of a long-term condition, or is simply struggling to maintain their budget.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to save money by skipping health insurance while still giving yourself a level of protection. If you are wondering how, here are some options.
Setting Money Aside for Healthcare Costs
One of the simplest ways to forgo health insurance and still be ready to handle medical costs is to save for those expenses. It would be similar to an emergency fund, ensuring you have access to enough cash to handle your needs.
Precisely how much you would want to set aside can vary. At a minimum, it’s smart to be able to cover a typical emergency, so you may be able to use some averages to figure out how much to save. Consider your family health history, but also recognize that an accident or illness can occur outside of those parameters.
Additionally, it’s wise to understand how expensive even a single procedure can be potentially. For example, an aortic valve replacement can cost $135,984, and exploratory chest surgery may run about $137,533, and that’s just for single procedures. A heart attack – including related care and procedures – can run in excess of $150,000.
The benefit of this approach is that you’ll end up paying for services that you legitimately need instead of sending cash to an insurance company for coverage you don’t use. Additionally, the money you set aside could earn interest, allowing it to grow over time. However, you need to make sure that you plan for costs you may ultimately need to shoulder, many of which can be astoundingly large.
Alternatives to Traditional Insurance
In some cases, you may be able to use some alternatives to traditional insurance for some of your healthcare needs.
Two prime examples are low-cost (or even free) community clinics and memberships to local practices. The first option is more common in areas where a notable amount of the population is lower-income, while the other may be more widely available in larger cities.
With community clinics, there may be a flat fee for doctor’s visits, though services are often limited to preventative care, long-term condition management, and treatment of common illnesses and injuries that wouldn’t require hospital-level services. If you’re near a free clinic, then these visits may not cost anything. However, you may need to meet certain income requirements to qualify for no-cost medical care.
If you go with a membership to a local clinic, you may get access to free visits, discounted lab work, and lower-cost prescriptions. Again, services are usually limited to what the clinic itself can offer, but it can work for many typical healthcare needs.
Finally, it’s important to remember that many hospitals do have payment plan options for costs related to emergency visits, many of which are interest-free. This can give you some time to pay what’s owed. How much time usually depends on the size of the bill and hospital policies, generally ranging from a few months to several years.
Do you have any tips that can help someone save more by not having health insurance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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