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How to deal when you aren’t insured

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There are few things more stressful than having a medical emergency come up while you’re uninsured. I would know, I’ve totally been there. I got married in college, my husband and I both had minimum wage jobs without benefits, and we couldn’t afford insurance. In that time, we each had multiple doctor’s visits and I had all four wisdom teeth cut out.

If you are also in a tight spot, and are uninsured, here are a few options to lower your out-of-pocket costs.

Talk to Your Doctor or Billing Center

In the case of my wisdom teeth, the dentist worked out a deal with me before the procedure. While healthcare is very expensive without insurance, doctors are often willing to work with you on price, so feel free to negotiate.

Of course, you can also work directly with the hospital billing center. You can generally negotiate a lower price and a payment plan if you truly don’t have the income to pay the full balance. Those with past due bills can also usually settle for a much lower price than originally owed.

Pick a Cheaper Care Option

If you are a student, your school health services center is staffed with doctors and nurses and costs only a fraction of the price you would pay at a traditional doctor’s office or hospital. I went to my school’s health center for any check-ups or minor health issues and paid a very minimal amount out-of-pocket.

If you are not a student, you can always go to a free clinic. For a full list of clinics in your area, check out the HRSA website.

Apply for Medicaid

Low-income households may qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid is the largest source of medical funding for those living near or below the poverty line. To see if you are eligible, check out the government’s healthcare website.

Remember, the Affordable Care Act went into effect this year, so those who are uninsured will have to pay a fee. However, the ACA also subsidizes a portion of health insurance premiums for those with low income -- the lower the income per family member, the higher the subsidies. For more information on the available subsidies, check out this chart.

Even if you can’t afford to insure, you do need to go to the doctor when health issues arise. Pick a cheaper healthcare option, negotiate a smaller bill, or apply for government assistance -- just make sure you don’t let major health problems persist.

About Erin El Issa

Erin is the founder of Red Debted Stepchild, a blog about her journey to getting out of debt while still enjoying life in Portland, OR with her husband. She enjoys reading, eating, traveling, and crunching numbers on her numerous spreadsheets. Sometimes she remembers to tweet at @reddebted.

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