If you have health challenges because of money problems, isolation or lack of insurance, there are actually reasonable options better than just showing up at the ER. We will provide an answer to the question of how to obtain decent health care without insurance, or devastating expense, even if you’re an American and take 5 minutes to read this post.
How about the Emergency Room?
It is generally an option, but it may come with challenges. It may not be nearby or easy to access. If you can get there, the prices will be VERY steep in most cases, especially in the US. If you have no assets, they may be required to treat you for free, but if you have a home or car, they will likely come after it to cover the high cost of care. While this may be essential in life-threatening situations, for minor illness or injuries, the ER is expensive overkill. Even though my wife had good medical care through her employer, we are still paying for an ER visit she had months ago after pains suffered playing tennis. While a few tests were done, no actual treatment was performed, yet our deductibles were several thousand dollars. This is not a great option if you are pressed for cash.
How about a DIY approach?
This can be challenging, and it isn’t for everyone, but if you live in a mountain cabin, on a boat miles from land or are isolated by agoraphobia or natural disaster, it may be the only option. It also may be the best option if you are very self-reliant, and choose an isolated lifestyle for personal or financial reasons. If this is an option you do wish to pursue, it is critical to prepare for taking responsibility for health care for yourself and/or your family so when the time comes, you are ready to respond to the accident or medical emergency that nearly all of us face sooner or later.
This approach demands that you take a more active role in monitoring and preventing health and safety problems, and in developing the tools, training, references and skills required to be ready. To prepare for this approach will require attention, study, organization and some investment so you can “be the doctor” when the time comes. Still, at times the complexity of potential illnesses or injuries to the human body may demand too much, and you may require help from a Doctor or other medical professional or pharmacist. Fortunately, there are options for this, also with advance preparation.
How to get medical help on-demand
If you have a brother, sister-in-law or best friend that is a family practitioner or emergency physician, this may not be a problem, but many of us need other options. While health insurance cooperatives and collaboratives have been proposed and a few exist, this option is not currently available to most people in need of care. That could change, as disasters like hurricane Harvey spurred adoption of medical coops in Houston, and a few other regions.
A more common and generally available option is Telemedicine or Telehealth, which is a form of remote diagnosis and treatment in use for several years. Connecting physicians with patients for “doctor visits” by video chat or phone, these methods began decades ago, but have become very common in the last few years. They now are an available, affordable option for people in many countries, including people across the USA.
We did a general assessment of the Telehealth option for family and individual health care in a previous post “Does Telehealth Work”. This study led us to do a specific review of a plan that offers unlimited doctor visits for a family anywhere in the US for a subscription that costs around $15 per month. This service provides specific medical diagnostic assistance, prescription service and general doctor visit support; the review post is “eDOC Homecare Telehealth Review” and was posted a few weeks before this article.
However you plan to attend to your healthcare, it is important to have backup plans in place, to deal with emergencies. Training yourself and family members in first aid, CPR and other emergency medical procedures is a powerful choice – it is rarely possible to have too much knowledge. It is also important to have other options in case self-care isn’t feasible. Nearby physicians, EMTs or other medical providers or Telehealth options or both may be good choices for this Plan B preparation.
Please share your stories, advice and questions on self-care options for those without insurance. We would love to have you join the conversation by commenting in the box below.