What to Do If You Can’t Afford Health Insurance

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With healthcare costs constantly rising, healthcare can look like an attractive area to cut for many who are struggling to make ends meet. After all, if you rarely get sick or need the doctor, why pay a huge premium each month for health insurance? Even when there were penalties for not having health insurance, that was still a cheaper option for many.

Of course, without health insurance, you’re at risk of running tens of thousands, or more, in debt in case of a medical emergency. If you have a plan that meets the standards for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the total you’ll have to pay per year for in-network care is capped. Without health insurance, there’s no limit to the potential costs for your medical care. Before forgoing health insurance entirely, it’s worthwhile to look into all your options. You may discover an affordable alternative you hadn’t considered yet.

Off-Exchange Plans

If you can’t afford plans on the health insurance exchange, it may be a good idea to look for an affordable off-exchange plan. This is where you purchase a plan directly from an insurance provider or licensed broker, and these options can be cheaper than subsidized plans under the ACA. Most off-exchange plans are still required to meet all the standards for plans covered under the ACA, but their premiums tend to vary to a much greater degree depending on the state. While off-exchange plans aren’t guaranteed to be cheaper in your area, shopping around can have big payoffs.

Catastrophic Health Insurance

These plans are fairly limited, but a catastrophic health plan can cover you in a worst-case scenario. These include plans that have generally low costs and high deductibles, so you’ll be covered in cases of medical emergencies. They also cover most preventive care procedures. These plans are limited to those under 30 or those who qualify due to financial hardship.

It’s important to realize that a catastrophic plan won’t actually cover emergency treatments until you’ve met your deductible, and it may only cover limited visits to your primary care physician. It’s possible to qualify for exemptions to the usual coverage rules if you’re recently homeless, have declared bankruptcy, or have suffered a disaster resulting in substantial property damage.

Short Term Insurance

It’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to choose limited insurance options over ACA-compliant insurance options. Sometimes referred to as month to month health insurance, these plans have lower premiums and offer benefits in cases of unexpected illnesses or injuries, though benefits may be limited depending on the pan.

Some of the main advantages of a short term plan include the fact that you can enroll at any time of year, there generally isn’t a waiting period, and you can cancel your plan at any time. A primary disadvantage is that you may be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Income Adjustments

If you’re just shy of making an income cutoff to qualify for a subsidy on your plan, you can look into ways to adjust your yearly income. One way to do this is to contribute more to a retirement plan. Those who are self-employed or who regularly incur business expenses can likely find ways to take more deductions to meet the cutoff. You can also check to see if you qualify for a tax credit to help cover your premiums.

Additional Options

If you really need medical care and other options aren’t working, you can look for free clinics in your area. These will often offer no-cost treatment for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and they’ll generally offer cheaper options even for other visitors. A social worker at your local hospital can likely help you find a clinic.

If you’re simply having financial problems at the moment, you can look for ways to temporarily cover your healthcare costs. Places like this credit union in Kentwood, MI, for example, can help you reach your monthly premium while you get your finances back in order.

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