If you’re sick, you make an appointment to see a doctor, right? Well, if you’re in the United States and you’re one of the many people who are uninsured or underinsured, getting health care isn’t that simple. The health care system can be tremendously expensive for those who are uninsured, or underinsured. So how do you see a doctor without health insurance? Fortunately, there are a few options available. however, they vary based on where you live, the type of treatment required, and other factors specific to your circumstances.
how to see a doctor without insurance
First of all, people shouldn’t avoid going to the doctor strictly because of the cost. it could cost your health and your wallet more down the line if you put off the care you need. Even if you don’t have health insurance, you can still see a doctor and get medical treatment: preventive care, acute care, urgent care, or emergency care. the hard part is finding services that are affordable. the best places to start are community health clinics, outpatient clinics, and direct care providers.
community health clinics
There may be community health clinics available in your area. These may be free or low cost to you. These clinics provide some of people’s most needed care, like preventive screenings and immunizations, without the high price of a direct primary care provider or insurance requirements. many of these allow people to pay on a “sliding scale” based on their income or offer free services. try searching your area through the directory at freeclinics.com.
Outpatient clinics are also available for more routine issues and may accept cash payments if you don’t have insurance. You can see a doctor in an outpatient clinic for minor problems and you will be billed for the visit. however, not all are as affordable as others, so be sure to ask if costs are up front. Some walk-ins offer care at low or reduced prices, while others can help you apply for free or low-cost health insurance, like Medicaid.
direct care providers
Even if you don’t have health insurance, it’s still possible to see a health care provider; however, there may be a cost. There are clinics that serve the uninsured, known as cash-only clinics, concierge clinics, or direct care providers. you may want to shop around to find a doctor you like that also fits your budget.
If you have an immediate medical emergency, you should go to the hospital emergency room or call 911. Emergency medical providers, such as hospitals, generally cannot refuse care in a medical emergency because you do not have health insurance. let staff know you don’t have insurance, as you may be able to work out payment terms over time with your billing department or get help applying for emergency medicaid or other insurance. however, emergency care is the most expensive type of care. Use it only if it’s a true emergency to avoid incurring expensive bills. In non-emergency situations, urgent care is often a cheaper option.
urgent care centers
Urgent care centers are available for immediate emergencies and other urgent medical needs and can often receive direct payment from the patient. this can end up being a cheaper alternative to a hospital visit, as long as the clinic can take care of your medical needs. These centers are like an outpatient clinic for more serious problems like broken bones, sprains, and wounds that require stitches.
how much does it cost to see a doctor without insurance?
Unfortunately, if you don’t have insurance, getting medical care can be quite expensive. it’s difficult to determine what the cost is, as it varies depending on the medical problem you have, the type of provider you see, and where you live. while the debt.org page lists the costs of a doctor’s visit between $70 and $250, but this number increases if you need additional tests or prescriptions. it can be astronomical if you need to visit the emergency room. The costs of various accidents and illnesses can add up quickly when you factor in billable items like blood tests, X-rays, and ambulance rides. many people end up being surprised by large bills after a medical event.
The average cost of diagnostic tests can also vary quite a bit depending on your region and where you’ve been. According to the Health Care Blue Book, a database that compiles fees, a CBC lab test can cost anywhere from $15 to $100, a chest X-ray can range from $40 to $250, and a fetal ultrasound can cost you Between $89 and $480. As you can see, it can be a real challenge to estimate how much medical care could cost if you end up needing it.
How much you pay may also depend on where you receive care. Some clinics may offer discounts or allow you to pay on a sliding scale based on your income. community clinics can be cheaper than going to a direct care provider, and urgent care clinics can be less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. Ultimately, what you’ll pay varies greatly depending on your specific health problem and where you go for treatment. Before you visit a clinic, you can compare prices or find out if you can get the treatment you need somewhere cheaper.
It is important to note that there are many people who do not have insurance and do not have to be. You can visit healthcare.gov or contact your local department of social services to find out if you qualify for free or low-cost health insurance.
how to save money when you don’t have health insurance
When getting health care without insurance, there are steps you can take to minimize the cost:
- mention you don’t have insurance. this way you can find out if there are any discounts you may be eligible for.
- find care that fits your budget. rates vary by location. find a free or sliding scale clinic.
- request a payment plan. Some health care providers will allow you to pay overtime to lower your up-front costs.
- double check your bills. mistakes are common. make sure you are being charged the correct amount. you can even negotiate invoices after you receive them, just call and ask.
- use prescription savings cards, like singlecare, to lower the cost of the prescriptions you need.
- request drug samples or a generic version. this can greatly reduce the out-of-pocket price of medications.
- Check if you are eligible for Medicaid. It is based on income, household size, and where you live, among other factors.
related: how can I save on my medication?
everything feels harder when you’re sick. take these steps now, before you need medical attention, to ensure that you are in a better financial position in the future. searching for discounts, coupons, payment plans, and comparing prices can go a long way for your wallet as you try to navigate the healthcare system.
Read this article in Spanish here.