Do You Lack Health Insurance?
If you are an American, and you lack health insurance, you are not alone. In late 2009, it was estimated that almost 46 million people in the US do not have a health plan. Recent high unemployment figures have not made this figure any lower.
Some of these people lost their group health plans when they lost their job. Others are self employed or work for a company that does not offer group health. There are alternative private health plans on the market, but many people just cannot afford them, or they cannot get accepted by one. While politicians haggle over the issues, sick people are having trouble getting treatment.
Are You Sick or Healthy?
If you are very healthy, or if you already have a health issue, you should seek coverage. It will be, of course, a lot easier to find affordable private health insurance if you are healthy. This way you can be prepared in case you do get sick or get hurt in an accident. Even a simple trip to an emergency room for a broken bone can cost thousands of dollars.
If you have already are hurt or ill, it will be tough to get it covered by private plans now. But even people who are already sick should be able to find some help. I hope to present some options for you.
Under federal law, some companies must extend their group medical plan to terminated employees. This can be a good option for those who are between jobs. The only issue with it is the cost. Instead of just paying your employee contribution, now you will probably also have to pay the whole premium amount. Many ex-employees are very surprised when they learn how much this is.
Individual Health Insurance
If you lack major medical, and you are fairly healthy, you may find that a private medical plan is pretty affordable. It is actually a misconception that group benefits are always cheaper than individual plans. Because insurers can underwrite each applicant, they may actually be able to offer lower rates for healthier people.
If you have an option to extend your group benefits (i.e. COBRA) or buy private coverage, just make sure the new plan will accept you, and that it will cover services you need. It is tough, for instance, to get individual plans that cover normal maternity. But if you are accepted, which most people in reasonably good health should be, and the plan satisfies your needs, you may be vary happy with carrying your own health plan.
State Risk Pools
Every US state has some sort of health plan for people who have a pre-existing health problem that gets them declined for other coverage. In some states, these plans can be very expensive though. This is a good option if you do have income or savings, but just do not have health insurance.
Paying For Prescriptions
If you cannot afford your prescription medicine, consult the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARX). Their website is PPARX.org. This organization offers a point of access to hundreds of private and public assistance programs. Their website says they have helped millions of Americans get help, and they may be able to help you.
Low Cost Health Clinics
You can find some lower cost health clinics. Many offer health services on a sliding scale. The PPARX website we mentioned about also has a handy search feature. You can enter your zip code and see if you can find a nearby locations. I entered my own zip code for a test, and I was surprised to see that there were several of these clinics within a short drive of my house. I had not been aware that there were any before.
Financial Aid For Health Problems
If you have a serious illness, you may be able to get support from a financial assistance program. These are usually non-profits, and sometimes they are called co-pay programs. Again, PPARX has information on many of these organizations.
County Health Systems
Try searching for a county or public health system in your own area. They should provide reduced fee services for patients. You will probably be locked into using their hospitals, doctors, etc., but you should have access to care.
Public Health Insurance Programs
If you have a very low income, and few assets, you may qualify for Medicaid. This is the federal and state program to insure the poor. Moderate income families should look at the Childrens Health Insurance (CHIPS) plan for their state. Income guidelines to cover kids are higher than those for adults, and these plans may also cover pregnant women.
What To Do If You Have No Health Insurance
I would tell anybody to figure out how they can obtain health insurance as quickly as possible. For instance, you should try to apply for a private policy when you are healthy! You are probably not going to find coverage from a private company after you are already sick or hurt. If you do find a plan that accepts you, it will probably be much more expensive That is how insurance works.
It is always better to plan ahead. Of course, this is not always possible.. If you have a current health issue, and no health plan, you should look at some of the alternatives we listed.