In the United States, health insurance can be quite costly. Even if your employer provides health insurance, out-of-pocket expenses can be substantial. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employees' share of premium costs increased by 40% between 2010 and 2020, outpacing wage growth. The costs can be much higher for the roughly half of the population in the United States who does not have access to an employer-sponsored plan.
That can make it very tempting to go without health insurance, especially if you're struggling to pay for other essentials or if you're young and healthy and don't believe you'll require much medical attention. Health insurance is not required by law in the United States, though some states do penalize residents who do not have it. Health insurance, on the other hand, is important enough to put it ahead of shelter, food, and transportation to work, if you can afford it. And if you don't, you might be able to find something else.
If I don't have health insurance, what happens?
The Affordable Care Act was enacted to make it easier for people who could not afford health insurance to obtain coverage. It was an effort to make health care more affordable for everyone by reducing the number of people who are unable to pay their medical bills, which drives up costs for the rest of us.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) formed penalties for not having health insurance in order to prevent people from being unable to pay their medical bills. In 2019, this section of the Affordable Care Act was repealed, and the authority to enforce healthcare laws was transferred to the states.
If you do not have health insurance and do not file your state taxes, you may be asked to pay a fee, depending on your state. To be sure, look into your state's healthcare laws.
Warning: If your state fines you for not having health insurance, the fine could be substantial, so if you decide to take the risk of not having health insurance, you should be prepared to pay the fine and factor it into your budget.
Keep in mind that not having health insurance carries other financial risks, such as being unable to pay for medical care. If you require more than minor care, this can result in significant debt. Medical debts are in collections for 17.8% of Americans with credit reports. This is why health insurance should be viewed as a necessity rather than a luxury.
Health Insurance: Why Should You Get It?
While you may not want to pay for health insurance, there are a number of compelling reasons to do so. An emergency medical situation, such as appendicitis or a broken leg sustained in an accident, can be extremely costly. A broken leg can cost up to $7,500, according to HealthCare.gov. Expect a bill of around $30,000 if you have to stay in the hospital for three days.
You may go bankrupt due to medical debt. If you're in a car accident and break both of your legs, you'll be in the hospital for a few days. A bill for $15,000 for broken legs and $30,000 for the three-day stay could put you in debt for $45,000.
Many hospitals will work with you to create a payment plan, but the minimum payments may still be too much for you to afford, and paying off the debt could take decades.
Preventive care is also made easier with health insurance, so you don't end up needing more costly procedures later. Taking care of minor issues such as ear or sinus infections can help you avoid more serious problems.
Important: Many insurance plans assist with the cost of annual physicals. Annual physicals can uncover previously unknown medical issues, potentially saving you money on unexpected medical bills.
Are There Any Inexpensive Alternatives?
You can get inexpensive health insurance in several ways. If you are below the age of 26, you may be eligible for coverage under your parents' health insurance plan. You might be able to get insurance through your spouse or domestic partner as well. Other consumers should look into employer-sponsored health insurance or even independent health insurance—plans that aren't available through the Obamacare exchanges.
The Obamacare exchange in your state may be the most affordable and accessible option. These exchanges are websites that are designed to help you find health insurance plans that are right for you. These plans have a wide range of prices; if you qualify, a tax credit can assist you in saving a significant amount of money on your premium.
When choosing a plan, consider a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), which has lower monthly premiums but higher deductibles. You could open a Health Savings Account if you decide to go this route (HSA). An HSA is a type of health savings account that allows you to put money aside before taxes to pay for medical expenses like copays and deductibles.
What is the Enrollment Deadline?
The Obamacare open enrollment period is the time of year when the vast majority of people can register themselves for a health insurance plan through the Obamacare marketplace. These dates vary from year to year, but they usually fall in the fall for coverage beginning in January. If you miss the open enrollment period, you will have to wait another year to sign up unless you meet the criteria for a special enrollment period due to a life event such as losing employment, having a child, or getting married.
Healthcare.gov is where the majority of people can sign up. Residents of 18 states, however, will need to register on their state's website. If you miss the enrollment deadline, you may be subject to state fines, so make sure you keep track of your enrollment.
If you truly cannot afford health insurance, you should investigate whether you are eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid applications are accepted at any time of the year.
You can also sign up for independent health insurance at any time during the year. An insurance agent can assist you in selecting the best plan for your needs.
Most Commonly Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you don't have health insurance, what happens?
Medical debt is the most serious consequence of not having health insurance. Health care is prohibitively expensive. A broken leg could set you back $7,500, a three-day hospital stay could set you back $30,000, and a cancer diagnosis could set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars. Health insurance can help you pay for these expenses and avoid going bankrupt.
What is the cost of health insurance?
Deductibles and premiums account for the majority of healthcare costs. In 2021, the average premium for single coverage paid by an employee was around $7,700. The average deductible was around $1,700 per year. In 2021, the average employee who spent their entire deductible on health care would have spent $9,400.