Can I Get By Without Health Insurance?

If you live in a country, such as the United States, that doesn’t offer free healthcare to all its citizens, it’s a really good idea to have health insurance if you can. You should definitely prioritize paying for health insurance over almost anything else, bar food and heating. However, if you really cannot afford health insurance, cannot find a job that covers it, or you are really against having the monthly expense of it, you might be able to get by anyway. Here are some categories of people who will have an easier time getting by without health insurance.

1. If you are rich and healthy

If either yourself, your spouse, your parents, or somebody else close to you has a large sum of money in a savings account or in easily accessed investments, you might not need to worry about having health insurance, as you might be able to pay for any medical expenses you incur out of pocket. This only applies to you if you are currently in very good health, however, as your expenses will quickly add up otherwise.

For example, you can get an MRI scan for $500—and that’s at the very low end of the scale! Prescriptions, visits to your family doctor, consultant appointments, ambulance transfers, and stays in hospital will all cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, so you would need a sizeable nest egg to get through even just one medical procedure without health insurance.

The good news is that since the Affordable Care Act of 2008 (which you will have probably heard of under the term ‘Obamacare’) insurance companies cannot deny you coverage for a pre-existing health condition. This means that you could potentially wait to get insured until after you have developed a condition. Keep in mind, however, that a new insurance policy won’t cover costs you incurred before you were covered, so if you needed urgent hospitalization before you’d had time to take out an insurance policy, you would still need to pay for that hospital stay out of pocket.

2. If you only ever use emergency services

Under the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, which was passed in 1986, emergency services are required to provide care to anybody, regardless of whether they have health insurance or not. This contrasts with all other medical providers, who have the right to refuse treatment to anyone who is uninsured and unable to pay for treatment and medication out of pocket.

Keep in mind, however, that the legal definition of a medical emergency is relatively narrow. It only covers:

  • severe or life-threatening incidents;
  • incidents where bodily functions or organs are severely impaired;
  • incidents where delivery is imminent for a pregnant person.

If the healthcare providers in the emergency room decide that your situation doesn’t fall under one of these categories, you could receive a hefty medical bill.

3. If you only ever have outpatient treatment

Outpatient treatment is when you have an operation and go home immediately afterward, without staying in hospital. This can save you thousands of dollars compared to an inpatient stay. If you have a medical professional in your family who can look after you and give you emergency treatment if needed, you might be able to choose outpatient treatment even in cases where it normally wouldn’t be recommended and save on your medical bills that way.