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September 28, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

How to get medical care without insurance?

Healthcare in the US is notoriously expensive in comparison to the rest of the world. While legislation like the Affordable Care Act has been pushed, the cost of healthcare remains inaccessible for most people in the country. Given the high expense of insured healthcare, one hesitates to think about the cost of medical treatment in USA without insurance

Unfortunately, given the high cost of health insurance, some people have no health insurance because they have to prioritize other expenses. It is possible to get medical care without insurance from a number of places, such as low-cost online clinics. 

Medical treatment in the USA without insurance

In 2018, 8.5% (around 27.5 million) of the US population did not have insurance. Doctors' visits are an unpredictable business, as the need may occur any time in the form of an emergency or when push comes to shove as a result of ignoring symptoms. Many people end up having to get urgent care without health insurance. 

Doctor visit costs without insurance can vary from place to place in terms of treatment, the type of provider you are visiting, and the medical issue you are having. Having no health insurance doesn't mean you are left to your own devices; you just need to be aware of your options. 

How much does a doctor visit cost without insurance?

According to debt.org, a doctor's visit without health insurance can cost between $70 and $250. However, the number rises if the patient gets tested or needs a prescription. Furthermore, there is an astronomical increase in overall cost if the patient needs to visit the emergency room. The price for urgent care without health insurance for accidents and sudden illnesses can add up when billable items like ambulance rides, blood tests, and X-rays are factored in the final invoice. 

In general, the cost for lab testing and X-rays also varies according to the region and the place visited. According to the Healthcare Bluebook, a CBC lab test can cost anywhere between $15 to $100, a chest X-ray can cost between $40 and $250, and fetal ultrasound can fall anywhere between $89 and $480. The differences between the lower and upper limits are pretty significant. This demonstrates just how unpredictable medical care without insurance can be. 

The amount paid depends on where you are receiving care. Some clinics give discounts or have a system that allows you to pay on a sliding scale based on your income. 

Where can I get medical care without insurance?

Some places you can get medical treatment from without insurance are:

  1. Community Health Clinics: These are commonly found in most areas. Community health clinics are either free or offer services at a low cost since they don't abide by insurance requirements. In general, the clinic provides essential and necessary care for people, such as vaccinations and screenings, at a low cost. Most places allow you to pay on a sliding scale according to your income. Community clinics offer services like basic medical care, prenatal and perinatal care, vaccinations, family planning services, preventive care, and even ongoing care for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma and dental care.

  2. Walk-In Clinics: This option is also perfect for mundane and routine issues, which are a bit tricky to deal with at home but quickly dealt with by the doctor. Most walk-in clinics take cash payments if the patient does not have insurance. Patients can walk in and be billed for their visit. Some clinics offer care at deducted rates, while others can help you apply for low-cost health insurance like Medicaid. However, it is important to ask for the costs up-front as not all walk-in clinics are low-cost. 

  3. Urgent Care Centres: These places are available for emergencies and time-sensitive medical needs. They often take direct payment from the patient. This option can be cheaper than a visit to the hospital if the clinic is able to cater to your medical issue. Urgent care centers operate like walk-in clinics for emergencies that require immediate attention, like sprains and wounds that need to be stitched up. 

  4. Hospital emergency room: If a patient has an emergency and needs medical attention right away, he should go to the hospital ER immediately. Hospitals do not refuse care in emergency situations. Still, you should let the hospital staff know that you are not insured. Telling them may help in arranging repayment terms and applying for low-cost medical insurance. It must be noted that urgent care without medical insurance is the most expensive type of care. 

  5. Direct care providers: You can opt for low-cost online clinics or low-cost online health care services which cater to people who are not insured. These are also known as cash-only clinics or concierge clinics. Examples include Cura4U, which offers excellent medical services at low prices. 

Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and a healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.