What if it cost more than you could possibly afford to put seat belts in your car? And you had to drive every day hoping you wouldn’t get into an accident? Not having medical insurance can be like that. Nearly 50 million Americans are uninsured, and an alarming number of them will die because of it. If you don’t have access to a doctor or regular medical exams, you are much less likely to detect a medical condition early enough to treat it. The uninsured can be suffering from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease for long periods of time without ever knowing it. Even people with insurance struggle to get adequate care for themselves and their families. What can you do if you if you don’t have insurance and you think your symptoms might be serious? It can be a scary position to be in, but it helps to know your options.
1. Free Clinics
Most areas offer at least one free clinic if not more, and they are staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses who have a vested interest in saving the lives of uninsured patients. The care is usually quite good, and some clinics even offer dentist services. The downside is that they usually operate a few days a week on a limited basis, and the need for free care is so overwhelming that you could be waiting a very long time to get an appointment. If you’re worried about your condition, you might need more immediate care.
2. Emergency Rooms
Emergency rooms often present the opposite problem as free clinics – you should only use them if it is truly an emergency. By law, they are required to treat everyone, regardless of who can pay. But they will take your information and bill you later, and sometimes it’s an enormous amount for something you could have taken care of elsewhere for less money. Plus, emergency rooms are packed, and you could be waiting hours to see a doctor.
3. Low-income Insurance Programs
Many counties and cities have low-income programs for people who cannot qualify for Medicare and Medicaid. Depending on what’s available in your area, it could be a very good option, and you could get insured pretty much immediately. You will probably be asked to present evidence of your income level such as pay stubs and tax information. Unfortunately, with the high demand for these services, some of them might have a waiting list, but it’s beneficial in the long-term to look into what your county offers.
4. Discount Clinics and Medical Labs
A nice middle ground for the uninsured are discount medical facilities, some of which operate on a sliding scale. For an average of a hundred dollars, you can get examined, diagnosed, and prescribed medication. Discount medical labs are also an incredibly valuable tool. You can order blood tests without a doctor visit, so you can find out the health of your heart, kidneys, and liver, and many other health issues. Getting tested can help you detect serious conditions you might never have known you have
Not having medical insurance can be very dangerous, but for a huge number of Americans, there is no other choice. Fortunately, the epidemic of uninsured patients is so large that counties, cities, and businesses are aware of it – which is why more options are available than ever before. It’s up to you to explore them. When you’re not strapped in, the only choice is to drive safely.
John Martin writes for health blogs and recommends the health testing center’s cheap blood work in San Antonio for diagnostic tests.