How to Get (and Pay for) Healthcare When You Are Uninsured

Jenifer Dorsey
2018-09-12 March 15th, 2016 |
Read time: 12 minutes

You don’t have health insurance and need to see a doctor. What do you do?

You will schedule the appointment as usual and let the doctor’s office know that you are paying cash.

It is likely you will be asked to provide payment up front at the time of service. A Health Affairs study published in May 2015 found that only 1 in 5 people were told they could be seen without paying the entire cost of the visit up front.1 The same study found that an office visit cost an average of $160 for a new patient. If you are unable to pay in full at the time of service you may be able to negotiate a payment schedule with the provider.2

Save the emergency room for emergencies

Medical Billing Advocates of America advises that you “steer clear of the hospital emergency room unless you feel your condition is life threatening or that it somehow truly calls for an emergency room setting.”3 While you may be less likely to owe the ER an up-front payment, you will likely pay far more for such visits.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, an ER visit can cost upwards of $1,000 for adults.4 If you do not have an emergency medical situation but need care sooner than a doctor can see you, visit an urgent care clinic instead—the average urgent care center visit costs around $150.5

Explore potentially more cost-effective provider options

Other places that uninsured individuals may be able to receive healthcare include walk-in clinics and community clinics. The cost of a walk-in clinic visit can be half that of a regular doctor visit for those paying cash, according to Medical Billing Advocates of America, and a community clinic may provide free or low-cost treatment determined by an income-based sliding scale.6

Purchase supplemental products that can help cut out-of-pocket costs

If you are in between Obamacare plans and ineligible for a special enrollment period, you may become temporarily uninsured. When the next open enrollment period begins on Nov. 1, 2016, you can purchase ACA-compliant coverage that will take effect in 2017. In the meantime, you can purchase supplemental products to help you reduce your share of out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

Supplemental products, also known as ancillary products or supplemental health insurance plans, are not ACA compliant and do not serve as minimum essential coverage that meets the Affordable Care Act’s individual shared responsibility provision; however, they can help you pay for healthcare while you are uninsured. Plus, with the exception of short term health plans, you can continue to use them once you buy health insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage.

Five common supplemental plans worth your consideration include:

1. TelemedicineGain access to 24/7 healthcare consultations wherever you have telephone access—and, in some cases, Wi-Fi. You pay a flat per-consultation fee. It has been estimated that telemedicine can save consumers $100 or more per doctor visit.7

2. Medical gap coverage – Receive lump-sum benefits for covered accidents and critical illnesses. Use the payments however you see fit—for medical bills, prescription medications, living expenses such as groceries and rent, and more. The medical gap plans available through include Metal Gap and Metal Gap 2.

3. Short term health insurance plans – While you are in between Obamacare plans you can buy a short term plan for as few as 30 days. This temporary coverage provides a range of benefits for unexpected medical care including doctor office visits, emergency room treatment, surgical services and more.

4. Dental insurance – Dental benefits can help reduce what you and your family pay for preventive care (e.g., bi-annual routine dental exams and professional cleanings) as well as basic and major care such as fillings, crowns and root canals.

5. Critical illness coverage – Critical illness plans pay lump-sum benefits upon diagnoses of certain conditions such as stroke, major organ failure, cancer and heart attack. These payments may be used for medical bills, travel to and from appointments, living expenses, childcare and more.

Many of these products come in a range of plan designs and can be customized to suit your healthcare needs and household budget. Some are guaranteed issue, while you may not qualify for others based on factors such as health history. Availability varies by state.

Where can I buy supplemental health plans?

You can buy the supplemental products listed above at If you have questions or want assistance in selecting the right options for you, call the number at the top of your screen to speak with a certified advisor.


Begin Coverage in 3 Easy Steps!

Step 1: Get a quote within seconds
Step 2: Compare multiple plans
Step 3: Finish application online
Originally Published On March 15th, 2016