What to do if you need medical care without insurance
If you don’t have health insurance getting medical care can feel daunting and expensive, but there are more doctors for patients without insurance than you might guess.
Some medical providers don’t even accept any kind of insurance, bills can be negotiated, discounts are available, and federal funding can help keep clinics low-cost even for the uninsured.
How much does it cost to see a doctor without insurance?
Without health insurance the average doctor appointment costs between $300-$600.
However, this number will vary depending on the services and treatment needed, as well as the type of doctor’s office.
By using some of the tips below you can minimize your medical costs, even without insurance, to ensure you don’t break the bank trying to stay healthy.
How to Get a Lower Price on Medical Bills
There are a few questions you can ask before your visit that can help reduce medical costs.
Ask if a facility has a “sliding scale” to help lower income patients. Sliding scales help match your medical bills to your income level.
You can also ask for generic medications, charity-care options, or if they have discounts for patients paying cash (paying with cash can reduce the cost by as much as 90%).
Negotiating medical bills before or after the visit can help make medical expenses more manageable.
Medical coding errors are surprisingly common and it is always worth double checking your bills.
You can do this yourself or get a professional to do it for a fraction of what they save you (approximately 15% to 30%).
Health Savings Accounts
You can deposit money into a health savings account to help prepare for the unexpected.
Many employers offer a matching contribution and all money put into these accounts is tax-free (when used for medical expenses).
Taxes are roughly 30% of our income, so using a health savings account is like saving 30% on your medical costs (or 60% if you get a match from your employer).
Going to the Right Facility
Medical costs vary depending on what type of facility you go to. If you are paying out-of-pocket for your medical care, it is extra important to know what constitutes emergency vs. urgent vs. primary care. You want to get appropriate care with an appropriate bill.
Federal law requires all emergency rooms to provide care to patients who come in. This means they cannot turn you away if you are uninsured, but it does not mean that emergency room care is free.
Emergency room care is the most expensive type and should only be used when absolutely necessary.
“If you are paying cash for your medical care, you would be a fool to use the ED (emergency department) for a minor medical problem.” – Rod Moser, PA, PhD, WebMD
Only go to an emergency room if you are faced with a medical event that poses a threat to a person’s life or limb.
What if I don’t Have Insurance but Have a Medical Emergency?
The best thing to do in a moment of a medical emergency is to go to an emergency room, even if the patient is uninsured. When possible, inform the staff that you are uninsured and inquire about lower-cost options.
Urgent care facilities are places for health issues that need to be addressed in a timely manner but do not necessarily need to be treated IMMEDIATELY. Can you wait 8 hours or more but can’t wait to get into a scheduled office visit? If “yes” is your answer then you should seek urgent care.
When scheduling appointments with a primary care physician, it can take weeks or months to get you into their next opening. During this time you can call around and ask about options for uninsured patients.
Some health clinics receive federal funding and provide low-cost or free health services. The most common medical services provided by clinics include reproductive health care (e.g. STD testing, contraceptives, etc.), and mental health care (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc.)
Are free clinics really free?
Free clinics provide health services for little to no cost. Each clinic works differently to meet the medical needs of the communities they are in.
For some low income individuals without insurance, free clinics will be completely free. Others may charge a low fee for treatment but will be cheaper than another type of doctor.
Call your community clinic ahead of your appointment and ask what you will be charged.
Can doctors refuse to treat patients without insurance?
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) ensures that all patients with or without insurance that are suffering an emergency condition must be treated until that condition is stabilized.
That said, if your condition is not an emergency and you are seeking treatment from a private doctor, the doctor has the right to refuse treatment if you are unable to pay for the services.
Online Medical Care For The Uninsured
Seeing a doctor online for both urgent and primary care is a great way to keep medical costs down. At PlushCare you can receive treatment from an online doctor with or without insurance.
With no health insurance appointments cost just $99. Saving you hundreds compared to an in person visit.
PlushCare doctors can help you with most of your primary and urgent care needs. We have same day appointments available and you can get world-class treatment from the comfort of your own home at an affordable price.
During your online session you will go over your medical history, symptoms and treatment plan.
The doctor will recommend affordable treatment options for uninsured patients.
If the doctor is unable to treat you online, your appointment is totally free.
Telemedicine apps like PlushCare use modern technology to help people of all income levels have equal access to quality healthcare.
Try it out today and book and appointment here.
Read More About Doctor’s For Patients Without Insurance
- Getting PrEP without Insurance
- How Do Online Doctors Visits Work?
- What Conditions Do Online Doctor’s Treat
miamilawyer.com Can a Doctor Refuse to Treat a Patient Without Insurance? Accessed October 7, 2019, at http://injury-lawyer-miami.com/can-a-doctor-refuse-to-treat-a-patient-without-insurance-2/
debt.org. What’s the Average Cost of a Doctors Appointment. Accessed October 7, 2019, at https://www.debt.org/medical/doctor-visit-costs/