I can’t afford insurance. Where can I get basic health care?
There are numerous low-cost health insurance options available for those who cannot afford the extensive insurance packages. And more affordable individual and family health insurance options are being brought into the market as the number of uninsured Americans increases. This is really great news for those who have not been able to afford health insurance in the past. To follow are a few lower-cost options for basic health care coverage.
COBRA: If you are unemployed, you might be able to receive health insurance coverage via COBRA. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. COBRA generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20+ employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage) in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end. For additional information on COBRA, you can visit http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm.
Workers’ Compensation: Many people don't realize that they may be covered under their state's Workers' Compensation program. If you are being treated for any work-related injury, your employer must offer you treatment under their Workers' Compensation program.
Medicaid: Medicaid will pay health-care expenses for low-income families and individuals. Each state sets the eligibility requirements, so qualifying for the program is state-specific. If you are working and still don't have enough to buy affordable health insurance, it doesn't cost anything to see whether you or your children qualify for Medicaid, so it is always best to check Medicaid first before moving on to the next options. And more states are adding health-care benefits for low-income families so if you don't qualify now, keep informed of your state's Medicaid and health insurance laws because you may qualify in the future.
Medicare: Medicare is provided by the government and administered by the Social Security Administration. If you are 65 or older, you would qualify for Medicare. You may also qualify if you are getting Social Security disability benefits.
State High Risk Health Insurance Pool: If you are turned down by individual health insurance companies because of pre-existing conditions, your state may have a high-risk health insurance pool you can obtain health insurance from. It may not be an affordable health insurance choice, but it may be the only individual or family health insurance option available to you that will pay for your pre-existing conditions if you don't qualify for COBRA.
Individual and Family Health Insurance: Individual or Family Health insurance plans work similarly to what an employer would offer their employees but would be more expensive since you don't get the cheaper group rate and you would not have an employer contributing to some of the costs. There is also usually a pre-existing conditions clause associated with these plans. Always remember that the higher the deductible you choose the lower your premium will be, but the more you will pay out of pocket when you go to the doctor or hospital. Obtaining a high-deductible emergency policy to maintain a low cost health insurance plan and keeping a Health Savings Account for smaller health issues might be a cost savings opportunity for you.
Short Term Health Insurance Coverage: This is a great affordable health insurance option for someone in-between jobs or who knows they will be starting a job soon. Short-term health insurance coverage works the same as an individual health insurance policy, but you will only be covered for a specific amount of time, which would keep your premiums down.
Group Insurance from Organization Memberships: This is often an overlooked source of affordable or low-cost health insurance. Some people are members of specific organizations that offer health insurance coverage. Although these organizations often do not help pay the health insurance premiums like an employer would, the rates are lower because of the group discount.
Group Health Expenses Sharing Plan: This is not insurance but works similarly to it. This is when a group of people pool their money together and pay each other’s health-care expenses. The contributions are pooled together and usually invested in order to accrue interest on the pooled funds. It works well when there are a lot of people who contribute and everyone is only using the money for major medical expenses.
Health Insurance Discount Cards: This is not an insurance plan but can be a good source for getting low-cost health services. There are many companies that offer affordable health insurance discount cards and they work like this: You pay a small monthly fee for a membership card and when you go to the doctor or hospital you will get a discounted rate on your services. One thing you should remember is that if you havea catastrophic health crisis the discount on these cards is not a lot, so you would still have an enormous amount of bills left to pay. These cards should not be used in place of insurance and if you choose this option you should still be working towards getting health insurance in the future.