When you don’t have much income, dealing with health issues is a major gamble. Do you spend money on healthcare now to treat or diagnose your problem? Or, do you wait and hope that the condition doesn’t get worse? If you do wait, are you risking an expensive emergency treatment? Will your health problem develop into a life-threatening condition?
In 2018, 27.5 million people in America didn’t have health insurance. Without insurance, even a single emergency room visit can land someone in serious medical debt. And with insurance, you may still have to pay astronomical deductibles, co-pays, and other unexpected fees.
So where do you turn for healthcare, and how do you pay it off? There are several options available for both. For example, some alternative lenders offer medical bills loans that can help you pay off providers quickly.
Are you worried about where to go for healthcare when you don’t have cash, insurance, or money for insurance cost-sharing? Check out the following six options.
Talk About Your Financial Hardships with Providers
No matter where you seek care, be up-front with medical care providers about your financial situation.
Emergency departments are required to administer care whether or not you can pay, thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). After you receive treatment, speak with the billing office to work out a payment installment agreement or a sliding scale discount. Ask whether you can eliminate certain fees.
However, receiving care in an emergency room is many times more expensive than a clinic or doctor’s office visit. Before you receive care at an urgent care clinic or similar provider’s office, ask about the same services: installment agreements, sliding scale discounts, or fee reductions.
In either case, providers may be willing to offer a low-or-no-interest loan to set aside the billing amount until you can pay.
Be wary of medical payment credit cards, though. Many providers will try to push you into putting your debt onto a credit card, which invites fees, interest, and other costs that can make your bill more difficult to pay. Insist that you would rather pay in cash through an installment agreement or by agreeing to a medical lien in exchange for a temporary loan.
Look for Alternative Healthcare Providers
There are many care providers out there who offer discounts or even free services to those who have financial difficulties.
The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC), for instance, operates a network of free and low-cost clinics in communities throughout the United States.
The Hill-Burton hospital coalition has a similar arrangement that allows patients at certain hospitals and clinics to reduce costs or enter into a more favorable payment agreement.
At the very least, there may be services available for free or on a sliding scale in your area. Check out whether you have a free clinic nearby. These are often available on a scheduled basis.
Some non-profit providers like Planned Parenthood also offer low-cost testing for certain transmittable diseases. Also, they can offer discounted treatments, referrals, and no-cost counseling to help you consider all of your available options.
Find Alternative Insurance Options
There are many insurance programs out there for people who cannot afford the cost of traditional insurance.
Medicaid, for example, is a government-run insurance program for low-income individuals. You have to meet certain income thresholds or circumstances to be eligible, but Medicaid can cover many services with low or no cost-sharing.
COBRA insurance plans are available thanks to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. A COBRA plan will cover certain individuals who have been recently laid off or who recently retired.
For individuals who have certain conditions that make insurance expensive, they may be able to use a risk pool coverage (RPC) program if their state offers one. All states offer pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs) as a requirement.
You may even be surprised to find out that your medical costs are covered in part or in full by a liability insurance arrangement. If your injury or illness was at all work-related, see if you can file for it under workers’ compensation insurance.
If your injury or illness may be at all related to a car accident, a product you’ve recently used, or an accident on someone else’s property, then you may be able to work with a personal injury lawyer to file a claim for your medical losses.
Take Advantage of Prescription Drug Discounts
There are many programs now that give you access to coupons and discounts for prescription drugs. These include MyRxCoupons.com and GoodRx.com. Always check these sites before paying full price for any prescribed medications.
Similarly, NeedyMeds.org can help you locate clinics and pharmacies that give you certain prescription recommendations for free, at a low cost, or on an income-dependent sliding scale.
Try to Avoid the Emergency Room
Seeking healthcare early can feel like a gamble. But the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is still highly relevant in today’s world.
If you can get healthcare in the early stages of illness, you will not only spend less but reduce the severity of your illness overall. This is especially true for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
Urgent care clinics are available in most areas now, and they can treat everything from the flu to a broken ankle at a far lower cost than the ER.
You might also be able to find a retail specialty clinic for your condition. Like hospitals, these clinics may be willing to work out a discount for self-pay patients or an installment agreement for those who can’t pay up front.
Look Into Getting a Medical Bills Loan
Online alternative lenders have a wide range of financial products available to those who need money but have limited options. A short-term loan can allow someone to borrow money now and pay it back in just a few installments. These loans come with interest and fees, so be sure to evaluate your ability to pay and ask about the total cost of the loan.
The good news is that many lenders can provide a medical bills loan even if you have bad credit or you are already hampered by debt. You can find out more about your options for a short term personal loan when you apply online today.