If you can’t afford insurance (or just can’t justify paying the cost), there are other options. Here are a few different ways to make medical expenses more affordable and keep you and your family protected.
Open enrollment is just about to start, so I’m sure insurance is on everyone’s minds.
And unfortunately, it’s not really a happy topic – especially with the recent news that insurance premiums will be going up as much as 25%.
I don’t know about you, but the premiums were already far too high…especially for what you get. Our little family would be paying well over $1000 a month for the bare bones (as we don’t qualify for any subsidies) plans.
Could we afford it? Yes, probably. But it’s just so high for so little, and it felt like we were just flushing that money down the drain
I feel like an increasing amount of people are either unable to afford insurance or feel that the cost is too high to justify paying. I don’t know what the solution is, but all I know is that it’s not working. It has helped a few people, but I know far more people it has hurt.
So, if you fall into one of those categories, this post is for you. There are other options, and I think it’s important to know what those are.
Here are a few different things you can do if a) you can’t afford/don’t want to pay for insurance or b) you have a high deductible that makes getting medical care very expensive.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how we quit Obamacare. I won’t go into all the details (you can read the post for those), but I think joining a healthcare share is one of the best options out there.
Basically, there are organizations that are out there that seek to make health care more affordable. You pay a monthly fee (which is very reasonable), and in exchange, you receive coverage for different medical needs you may have. That monthly fee goes directly to paying other members medical bills.
In my post, I do a comparison of three of the ones that we looked into. They all have different benefits. For instance, Liberty Health Share will pay for preventative procedures (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) and well-visits. We are with
We are with Christian Healthcare Ministries, which requires any medical needs submitted to be over $500. However, if you are able to get discounts on your bills, it can lower the amount you need to meet before they will pay. I really love that the most we will pay – regardless of how many children we have – would be $450 a month (and there is no cap on the bill amount if you use Brother’s Keeper on the Gold Plan..which we do).
The main downside to going with one of these options is that they aren’t really conducive to pre-existing conditions. CHM does pay a certain amount each year that you are a member for pre-existing conditions, which is why we ultimately went with them (the amount increases for several years, until it is no longer considered pre-existing).
Another downside is that it can take awhile to get bills processed and paid. My sister and brother-in-law are with CHM, and they submitted a bill for a hospital visit a few months ago. It took a little bit of time to get everything processed and negotiated, but the last time I talked to my sister, she said that they weren’t probably going to have to pay anything (because they got well over $500 is discounts).
Oh, and yes, many of these companies are exempt from the ACA.
There are an increasing number of teledoc services that are “opening their doors”, so to speak. These services – such as AmWell, ZocDoc, and Doctor On Demand – allow you to visit with a doctor via webchat, and they can diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, etc.
I used one of these when we were out of town once while I was pregnant. I was able to get a prescription for a UTI, and I used a free coupon I found online…so it was totally free.
This is a great option for people who have high deductible plans (especially if there is no co-pay) or if you do something like a healthcare share. I think that HealthTap is a great option for this. You pay a minimal monthly fee for unlimited visits, you can get prescriptions written, and you can also visit with a specialist through their concierge services. You can go here for more details!
My friend, Hilary, also shared a great post about another company called ModernMedicalPlans.
Obviously, teledocs can’t mend a broken arm, and they aren’t for well-visits. However, they are perfect for those situations where you know you need a prescription or advice, but you don’t want to go in the office and pay a bunch of money just to be told you have strep throat (which you probably already knew).
Medications can be so expensive – but fortunately, there are a lot of generics out there. When you are being prescribed something, ALWAYS ask for a discount.
You can also ask if there is a different way it can be administered that is cheaper. For instance, Oliver has to be on an acid reflux medication. The liquid version was well over $200. However, his doctor prescribed a pill version – where we take the beads out of the capsule and put it in food – which was only about $4.
I’m on a medication for acid reflux as well, and my doctor recently changed it to a once day, 300 mg pill, instead of a twice a day 150 mg pill. Not only is it easier to remember to take, but it was less expensive.
You can also get a prescription discount card. Not all of them are as good as others, but usually, they can help you save a little bit of money. The pharmacy I go to actually has one on file that they let anyone use (and you can usually get one online for free).
I also just learned about YouDrugstore, which offers much cheaper prescription medications. It is based in Canada, and so long as you have a prescription, you can order your medications from there.
Concierge and Co-Ops
I think more and more doctors are getting fed up with dealing with insurance companies and are opting to go a different route for offering services.
Which is understandable – dealing with your insurance company is often a mind-numbing, frustrating experience for everyone involved.
There are doctors that offer concierge medical services – basically, you’ll pay a certain amount each month or year, and it will cover certain services or allow you to pay a less amount, allows you to have more time with your doctor (because they typically have less appointments), and it takes out a lot of the red tape.
I have looked into some of these, and I think some of them are too expensive still. But they are definitely worth looking into.
I go to a doctor that does something similiar, but it’s called direct pay. I pay about $35 a month, and that allows me to have unlimited number of appointments and discounted medical testing. For instance, I recently had some genetic testing done (to determine why Oliver might have been IUGR), and because I went through her, I was able to get it done for 1/3 the price I would have otherwise.
She has no employees but herself, and she doesn’t accept insurance, so the overhead cost is very low, which allows her to do this “membership” based service. I don’t know if other doctors do this, but I would definitely ask around. If you live in the Denver area, let me know, and I can give you my doctor’s information. She is truly the best doctor I’ve ever been to – I never feel rushed, she explains things very well, and she suggested solutions to problems I’ve been having for years that no other doctor even considered.
Places like Walgreens and King Soopers often have clinics where you can see a doctor or PA for a reduced price. These can be great for getting vaccines, ear infections, etc., especially if you have a high deductible, but you’d still like to be seen in person. Most of these places actually do take insurance as well, so it may be less expensive to go into one of these places
At Home Tests
Okay, I don’t recommend diagnosing yourself at home for everything. Google can be a great thing, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to determine what your illness is on that basis alone.
However, I think it’s worth it to buy certain products that will allow you to decide whether or not you need to go into the doctor. You can buy strep tests strips that you can use at home. By using these, you can determine whether or not your kid’s sore throat needs to be assessed right away. Of course, there is room for error, so just use these as a tool to make an informed decision.
I’ve also been told that I should get an at home otoscope. This is GREAT for those time when you aren’t sure if your kid has an ear infection or if they are just being grumpy. Hilary recommended this to me, and I keep meaning to get one. She said that the key is to use it when your child doesn’t have an ear infection so you can tell what one looks like. Obviously, if they end up having an infection, you should go in!
I hope that this helps. Please leave a comment if you have any advice on how to keep medical costs down!