Making the decision to go without health insurance often comes with consequences for your family. While to some households it may be a choice, to others, it’s a luxury that isn’t on the table. While you can pray for good health, unexpected medical issues are common - and expensive. If you’re without health insurance for one reason or another, here are eight ways to cover your medical expenses in the coming year.
Way #1: Shop Around for Urgent Care Centers, Doctors and Hospitals
Different offices charge different amounts. If you’re able, call around to determine which medical facility can offer you the best price for paying out-of-pocket. Since you aren’t confined to using a specific network, you have more freedom to shop around without having to worry about out-of-network prices.
Way #2: Set Savings Aside Each Month
Set aside money each month in order to cover your necessary medical expenses. Make sure to account for any recurring expenses - such as prescriptions and regular check-ups - as well as unexpected medical issues (broken bone, dislocated shoulder, the flu, etc.). In most states, there is no longer a penalty for being uninsured. However, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and Washington D.C. have specific mandates for their health insurance. This should be in addition to a an emergency fund for other unplanned expenses.
Way #3: Save on Medications
If you need a prescription, ask your doctor if they have any free samples available. Remember to ask your doctor for a generic brand, as they tend to cost much less to fill. Additionally, you can look to see if you qualify for a prescription assistance program, where drug companies will help you find lower prices. And before heading to the pharmacy, consider searching online or downloading a mobile app that automatically tracks drug prices and offers coupons for your prescriptions.
Way #4: Call Right Away and Pay in Cash
As soon as you have received a bill from the hospital or doctor’s office, call and set up a payment plan. If you can immediately pay that amount in full, the hospital or doctor’s office may be willing to lower your amount. That means that if you have the money, paying it off immediately may be beneficial. If that’s not a feasible option, establishing a payment plan may be your next best bet. Don’t wait to talk through your options with the healthcare provider, as they could send your information to a collection agency in as little as 90 days.
Way #5: Inquire About Reduced Rates
Simply asking for a discount, while uncomfortable to do, could work in your favor. Some doctor’s offices may be able to charge you a lower rate if you do not have insurance. Additionally, offering to pay for a service in advance could mean getting a discounted rate. While this is not helpful should an unexpected medical emergency arrive, it can help cut down on costs for regular office visits.
Way #6: Watch for Errors: Always Check Your Bills
A simple typo can make a big difference in what you’re asked to pay. Review every medical bill carefully line-by-line, and question any charges you don’t remember incurring.
Way #7: Claim Deductions on Your Taxes
The IRS says that many medical treatments are tax-deductible.
Tax-deductible medical expenses may include:
- Dental Bills including braces
- Lab Fees
- Chiropractic Services
Check with your CPA or financial advisor to see if these deductions may be a viable option for you to take this coming tax season. Keep records of ALL expenses in the event you claim a tax benefit.
Way #8: Consider a Flexible Spending Account
With a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can put money into an account to pay for certain out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Your employer can make contributions to this account as well, but they are not required to do so.
In order to receive reimbursement, you’ll need to submit a claim through your employer with proof of the medical expense plus a statement that it has not been covered by insurance. Upon approval, you would receive a reimbursement for your costs.
Expenses covered by FSA may include:
- Certain medical and dental expenses
- Deductibles and copayments
- Over-the-counter medications with a doctor’s prescription
- Medical equipment
Way #9: Consider a Healthcare Sharing Ministry
Healthcare sharing ministries, also known as medical sharing ministries (MSM), are not insurance. These programs have the potential to cover some of your family's medical expenses. MSMs are structured as non-profit organizations that allow members who pay a monthly fee to share medical bills. Each program is different, but generally you will be asked to sign a statement of faith that organization has prepared. You'll then pay a monthly fee and submit medical bills for potential reimbursement as they arise. Although there are some similarities to health insurance, rules are different and programs like this choose to cover or not cover certain expenses in different ways than regulated insurance companies. Before joining a medical sharing ministry, do thorough research to ensure you understand what may or may not meet your family's needs.
Covering your medical expenses without insurance is challenging, but it can be done. It may take some planning ahead or shopping around, but lowering your costs while still receiving medical care is possible.
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