Health care affordability is not the impossible dream. The cost of medical treatment continues to rise more quickly than general inflation, and budgeting it is a challenge. The question of how to get health care we can afford is one that most people struggle with, but especially people in the US. Americans are fortunate to have advanced health care options, but must pay more than nearly anywhere else to access them. There are ways to get medical treatment without going bankrupt, however.
The conventional health care system is mostly out of reach for many Americans unless they have exceptional insurance, excellent health or both. The cost of doctors visits, treatments and drugs continues to rise, so consideration of options other than private-payer access is in order. Fortunately there are affordable options.
How to Stay Well Without Going Broke
Actually, there are several options beyond the standard high-priced insurance, employer paid insurance and all the co-pays, deductibles and other painful surprises. We will list a few:
Take a job that covers everything:
They do exist, but some are easier to get than others. If you qualify and can make the sacrifices required, a job like Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist (EODS) for the military could fill that bill, and it offers total healthcare coverage during service, and after, if you see combat. Here is a link that provides details.
Of course there are other positions in military service, government service and some private organizations that offer extensive or full medical coverage, but they are not for everyone. Also, many are unqualified or unwilling to sign on to positions that provide these benefits.
Isolate yourself from exposure to risk or infection:
This is a pretty extreme change for most people, but if you are healthy to start with, and able to handle the situation, it can be part of the solution. If one relies on isolation with barriers providing protection from contagious infection, healthcare risks can be largely mitigated. This requires an extremely health-centered lifestyle, and little or no contact with the public. If you add in a catastrophic insurance policy with a very high deductible, or other employer or self-care options, it may keep cost of care at a reasonable level.
While this is an option, it is not a complete solution for many, and it is too extreme for most in modern society.
Live a Semi-Isolated Lifestyle with Self-Care:
This is common enough for many that we did a post on it: Self-Care In Isolation. Essentially, this is the normal lifestyle for people living a healthy independent life on a boat, in the forest or other remote household, caring for themselves medically. This approach either relies strictly on care provided within the family, or adds some form of inexpensive Tele-medicine and remote diagnostic service on an as-needed basis.
If this option sounds intense, with a lot of personal learning and responsibility involved, that’s because it is. However, lots of folks have chosen this lifestyle for many years and have found ways to make it work, even before Telehealth options were readily available and affordable as they are now.
Relocate to a place with free or affordable health care:
Many countries and some international organizations provide universal health care for citizens and some provide it for legal residents. Universal healthcare is not always free for all procedures in all situations, but it generally covers essential care without risk of massive cost or debt. Sometimes there are waiting lists or bureaucratic issues, but these vary and are not always worse than the costly US equivalents.
If you have the means and qualifications for relocation to gain that benefit, it may be an option. In any case, very few countries have medical systems as expensive as the USA, so if you are an American, this is likely to make treatment cheaper.
What you don’t know CAN hurt you
It is wise and can save money to become educated about your medical options. While many leading pharmaceutical firms are in the US, Americans generally pay the highest prices for the drugs they provide. High cost of care is common in US hospitals, doctor’s offices, diagnostic services and nursing homes as well. In addition, it is nearly impossible to get an accurate estimate for the cost of a surgical procedure until after you get the bill. Since this high-priced, uncontrolled cost impacts patients and insurance companies it forces higher prices and deductibles, even for those with good insurance options. This is the reality for treatment in the established, fee-for-service health care system in the US. It is in a powerful position to wipe out the savings and other assets of families stricken with a serious or life-ending illness, and most of us near the end of life.
The only sure cures for this broken health care system are to join an institution (like the Military) that will take over the cost, or to remove yourself from the traditional US medical system. Removing yourself from the US health care system requires taking on more responsibility for your own care and health, leaving the US, or both.
None of the choices are easy, but there are better ones than simply doing without any care and living or dying with the consequences of that lack of treatment. It is generally far better to make a plan, than to count on good health, as nobody has health that lasts forever.
What is your plan, or your idea for more affordable health care? Please share your story or suggestion or question with us and join the conversation.
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