Covering the Cost of Healthcare without Employer Assistance

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For people who are unemployed, under-employed or self employed, lack of health insurance can be a headache. It’s hard to stay healthy while looking for a job when anxiety about healthcare can be overwhelming and it’s even worse when you’re trying to provide coverage for a family.

Dr. David Thompson explains the danger of this cycle, "If you don't have health insurance, your whole approach to health care changes. You don't want to see doctors, you don't want to have tests done." Patients wait until a little problem is a big problem and wind up in the emergency room facing large unexpected expenses.

Consider the following options to control your health care costs without having to sacrifice the services you need:

Self-pay –If you inform the doctor ahead of time that you will be paying out of pocket instead of through an insurance company the costs are significantly cheaper. Doctors have to pay filing fees and additional expenses just to work with insurance companies so they save money when you pay yourself and most doctors pass those discounts on to their uninsured patients. Several states and hospitals are also authorizing self testing practices where patients don’t need a doctor to authorize common tests like cholesterol screens.

Carry yourself – You can opt to pay for an insurance plan yourself. Look online or contact a consultant in your community to help you find an insurance plan that works for you. Check the coverage and providers before you sign on to anything. Look at the deductibles and the co-pays and see if you can fit those into your budget with the coverage costs as well. You might have to settle for supplemental insurance instead that won’t provide full coverage but will at least curb the costs.

Health Savings Account - An increasingly popular alternative to health insurance is a health savings account which allows you to deposit money income tax free for later spending. You can draw money for health related expenses without being taxed. If you withdraw money for unauthorized expensed you will be subjected to taxes and penalties but the upside is you still get to keep the money if you’re generally healthy and don’t need to spend it on medical expenses.

Co-Op it – An alternative to large health insurance providers are health insurance co-ops. Groups of people all pitch in together to help lower health care costs for everyone. Often members contribute a certain amount, similar to a deductible, then draw from collected funds to cover expenses beyond that amount. Non-profit member funded insurance companies were popular in the 1930s but lost government support in 1947. Now Congress has authorized $3.8 billion in federal funding available as loans to cover CO-OP start-up costs and grants.

State Assistance - State benefits vary but there are many programs to help people in need stay healthy. Children and the adults they depend on, the elderly or people with disabilities can qualify for special programs aside other than Medicare. Be prepared to produce a plethora of paperwork and encounter an obscene amount of red tape. It’s a blessing though when you’ve run out of all other options.

It’s hard to tell what will work best for you until you start to do a little digging. No one says you have to stick with just one though. Mix and match until you find the right combination of cost and coverage for you. Remember that health related expenses can be tax deductible so save your receipts and ask your accountant what you can write off.

Do you have health insurance or a plan for if a medical emergency comes up? Comment with your thoughts and experiences.

By Heather Fairchild - Heather is a multimedia developer with experience in web, film, photography and animation as well as traditional fine arts like painting and sculpting. In addition to writing for Nexxt, she is co-founder of design and promotion company. Heather’s spare time consists of making puppets, teaching Sunday School, building Legos and doing science experiments with her children.

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