How to get along without health insurance

Just after my 40th birthday, I got laid off from my job. I cannot afford the COBRA plan. I don’t have any health problems at the moment, but that could change. Now that I am uninsured, will I be able to get medical care?
Going Without
Dear Going Without,
Yes, you will be able to get medical care. There is a widespread myth that having no health insurance means getting no medical care, or, worse, being refused by care givers.
Federal law requires hospitals to accept all patients for emergency care. This is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, called “EMTALA” (emm- tah- lah). They don’t have to work for free, however. They will present you with a bill. You may qualify for various charity and discount programs, based upon your income.
For physician services, you can go to a health clinic whose fees are based upon your income. Your own physician would probably be willing to give you a discount or a payment plan.
You can find a list of the hospital programs and sliding scale clinics in the Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care’s Health Care Guide.
These will be enough as long as you don’t need a lot of care. As you say, your health could change. If something terrible happened to your health, you would still get care. It’s a matter of how you would pay for it. Whatever money or property you have would go to your medical bills. More than 60 percent of the bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical bills.
Which is to say – try to get health insurance as soon as you can. You have 60 days to decide whether to buy the COBRA plan. If it’s not too late and if you have savings or a home that you are fond of, you might want to reconsider getting it.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.