6 Ways to Pay Medical Bills With No Health Insurance

Image shows two doctors, a price tag, a hand holding a large coin next to an hourglass, store-brand pills, and a piggy bank. Text reads: "How to save on medical bills with no health insurance: research different doctors and hospitals and compare fees; ask for discounts; pay in advance for a reduced rate; ask for generic medications or free samples; set up a savings account for medical expenses"

The Balance / Theresa Chiechi

When you make the choice to go without medical insurance, you will need to be prepared to deal with the consequences. Planned or unplanned, medical procedures can cost quite a bit of money. When you do not have insurance, you are responsible for paying one hundred percent of the cost. If you cannot afford health insurance, you will need to take a proactive approach to ​dealing with your medical bills. With the rising cost of healthcare, many people find it difficult to afford healthcare costs even with insurance. It is important to be proactive because medical bills can lead to medical bankruptcy. If you do not have insurance, try to find a plan through the Affordable Care Act and enroll as soon as possible. 

Shop for Doctors, Urgent Cares, and Hospitals

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Different hospitals and doctors charge different fees for a visit. Call around and find out the average fee for an appointment before you get sick, so you know which place is the least expensive. For example, one urgent care facility charges just $65 for an appointment, which is much less than the other urgent cares and less than what most doctors charge for a regular visit. The hospitals have different prices for procedures as well. If you are not tied down to a network, then it is worth making the calls before you get sick so you know where to go to save money.

Ask for Reduced Rates or Pay in Advance

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Many doctor’s offices will charge you a lower rate if you do not have insurance, but you do need to ask for the discount. For some services, the hospital and doctor may give you a reduced rate if you pay for it in advance. For example, you may save money if you pay for a baby delivery in advance, instead of paying for it afterward. This option may be available for medical tests or other elective surgeries, as well. Although this is not helpful in an emergency, it can save you a significant amount on your medical bills.

Call and Pay in Cash

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Once you receive a hospital bill, you should immediately call and set up a payment plan. Often the hospital will offer a lower payment amount if you can pay that amount in full immediately. If you have the money available, you should do this, otherwise you should set up a payment plan right away. Do not wait to call and talk about payment plans, because the hospital or doctor’s office may send you to a collection agency in as little as 90 days. It is more difficult to negotiate terms with a collection agency.

Save on Medications

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Ask your doctor for free samples when he gives you a prescription. They often have tons of free samples available to give to patients. Additionally, you can ask for generic versions of medication at the pharmacy and from your doctor, which cost less to fill. You may also qualify for help with a prescription assistance program. The drug companies can help you get the medicine at a price you can afford. Shop around for a pharmacy that offers them for less money. Walmart has a list of medicines they offer for just $4. Take the list with you when you go to the doctor to see if any of the listed medications will work in your situation.

Set up a Savings Account to Cover Medical Expenses

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If you choose not to have health insurance, you need to set money aside each month to cover your medical expenses. Try to save at least $100 a month to cover the costs of doctor’s bills and medications. However, if you were to become seriously ill without insurance, you may be forced into declaring bankruptcy. In addition, if you opt to go without health insurance, you may face additional fines. As of 2019, there is no longer a federal penalty for being uninsured. However, several states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island, as well as Washington, D.C., have implemented their own individual mandates modeled after the Affordable Care Act penalty.

Consider Getting Insurance

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At the very least, consider getting high deductible health insurance with a health savings account. This insurance is the least expensive option, and it will protect you if you need emergency surgery or become seriously ill. You must pay all of your costs out-of-pocket until you meet your deductible, but then all of your medical bills will be paid in full for the rest of the year. A health savings account allows you to make contributions to use toward your deductible, and you will not be charged on any interest earned. The money in this account does roll over from year to year, which makes it easier to save for the long-term. Health insurance is something that you need. It should be considered a necessity because it protects you from medical bills and allows you to seek medical care when you need it, which can prevent small problems from turning into more serious ones.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What if I can't pay my hospital bill?

Contact the hospital's billing department, and let them know you can't pay. They have programs to help people who can't pay. Even if you don't qualify for one of those programs, you should be able to make payment arrangements you can afford, even if it's only $25 or $50 per month.

What if I can't afford health insurance?

Check with Medicaid to see whether you qualify. Even if you don't meet the qualifications for Medicaid, you should also check to see whether you qualify for healthcare plans that are subsidized through the Affordable Care Act. You can check your eligibility through Healthcare.gov, a government website.

If I go to the emergency room, will they turn me away if I don't have insurance?

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you need to go to the nearest emergency room. You will be treated regardless of your ability to pay. You will be asked for your insurance information, and if you don't have insurance, they will usually work with you if you need treatment.

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