Is it Ok to be uninsured? Here are a few things you need to know about living without health insurance.
There is no law or rule about not having health insurance – the tax penalty for not having health insurance has also been removed at the federal level, so there’s no longer a fine for being uninsured – but you do face risks if you choose to go uninsured.
What are the risks of being uninsured?
The risks of going uninsured are primarily cost related. Some of the main risks that you could face by going uninsured are:
- Steep healthcare costs – Without health insurance you may get charged much more for care that would otherwise be covered by your plan.
- Difficulty paying off expensive medical bills – Since you might be charged out-of-pocket full price for any healthcare you receive while not having insurance, you may find that you’re quickly drowning in medical bills.
- State tax penalties – While the individual responsibility penalty was repealed and no longer applies from 2019 on at the federal level, there are states with their own health insurance penalties. Check in to see if your state still has a state-level individual mandate that could affect you if you’re uninsured.
- Not seeking or postponing receiving healthcare – According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey, almost a fourth (about 24%) of the uninsured hesitate seeking needed healthcare due to the high cost of uninsured healthcare. By hesitating to put your health first, you run the risk of health issues becoming worse over time.
- Unable to afford needed medication – Because of rising prescription drug prices in the US, many prescription drugs are incredibly expensive, especially without a health insurance plan to help out. According to the KFF, about 19% of uninsured people will delay or not purchase needed drugs due to the cost.
Why do people go uninsured?
A lot of people go uninsured because of financial reasons.
According to a 2017 KFF survey, most uninsured individuals who are uninsured, go without health insurance because the cost is too high – about 45%. At 22%, the second most common reason uninsured people go without health insurance is because they lost their job or changed employers and because of that they lost their employer sponsored insurance.
Other groups of people said that they were uninsured because they lost their eligibility for Medicaid or lost coverage through their spouse, parent, or because of another status change.
Only about 2% of those surveyed cited that they had no need for healthcare coverage as their reason for being uninsured.
Can I get insured after losing coverage through employer, family member, or Medicaid?
If you lose coverage through a spouse, parent, or become ineligible for Medicaid you can get insured.
These losses of coverage are examples of qualifying life events which make allow you to be eligible for something called a special enrollment period. A special enrollment period allows you to enroll in major medical health insurance plans outside of the open enrollment period (which for 2019 coverage was ran from November 1st through December 15th of 2018 and will run from November 1st through December 15th for coverage starting in 2020).
If you qualify for a special enrollment period – which typically last 60 days – you will have to prove that you experienced a qualifying life event.
However, if you lose coverage through an employer or family member and you believe that you may qualify for Medicaid, you can apply anytime throughout the year as Medicaid and CHIP – two government programs seeking to provide low-cost or free health insurance to low-income individuals and families – do not have open enrollment periods.
Even if you do not think that you will qualify for Medicaid or CHIP based on income alone, apply anyway especially if you are disabled, have children or are pregnant.
How do I get affordable coverage?
If cost is what is keeping you from purchasing coverage, you should be happy to know that there are Affordable Care Act subsidies that you may qualify for.
Qualification for subsides is base off of your yearly income and what percentage you make above the federal poverty line (FPL). If you make between 100% of the FPL and 400% you may qualify for some assistance in paying your monthly insurance premium.
You can still qualify for subsides if you choose to buy through an online brokerage like eHealth, as long as you’re choosing an ACA-plan with the ten essential benefits included. eHealth allows you to affordable compare plans that aren’t on the government exchanges so that you can find the right health insurance for your budget and your needs.
Start shopping on eHealth to find the right kind of coverage that will protect your finances from the costs that come with being uninsured.