more than 90% of the us. uu. population has health insurance, which can keep your medical bills much lower than if you had to pay for care yourself.
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but there were still 27 million americans, 8% of us. uu. population, who did not have health insurance in 2021, according to the u.s. census.
what if you don’t have health insurance?
Not having health insurance can lead to a lot of debt, affect your health if you delay care, and may even hurt you at tax time, depending on your state.
These are aspects of not having insurance that you need to understand.
medical debt is a major problem in the us. In the US, with 17.8% of people having medical debt in collections, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
If you don’t have health insurance, you’re at much greater risk of racking up medical bills you may not be able to pay. At worst, you could be sued and have your wages garnished. you could even be forced to file for bankruptcy.
The jama study also says that medical debt keeps people from getting needed medical care and can result in poorer mental health.
Initially, the Affordable Care Act required nearly all Americans to have health insurance or be taxed. Congress later removed the federal penalty, but some states have their own health insurance mandates.
states with individual mandates include:
- district of colombia
- new jersey
- rhode island
- California charges up to $800 per adult and $400 per dependent.
- new jersey charges at least $695.
- vermont requires residents to have health insurance, but there are no penalties if you don’t have coverage.
- unaffordable coverage: 73.7%
- not eligible for coverage: 25.3%
- neither want nor need: 21.3%
- signing up was too difficult or confusing: 18.4%
- can’t find a plan that meets needs: 18%
- lost work: 2.8%
The tax penalty for not having health insurance varies by state:
Some people need special medical devices to treat their health problems. For example, if you have sleep apnea, you may need a continuous positive airway pressure (cpap) machine to help you breathe at night.
There are an estimated 2 million medical devices available to treat health conditions. In some cases, these devices are implanted in the patient’s body. About 10% of Americans will use an implanted device at some point in their lives, according to the American Medical Association.
You will have to pay for these devices yourself if you do not have health insurance. health insurance may cover many types of medical devices, although newer technologies may not be covered.
Health insurance companies often follow Medicare’s lead in deciding whether to cover these devices, and Medicare is often conservative with new devices and therapies.
medical care costs
If you have health insurance, you’ve probably found yourself complaining about all the costs you pay, including premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. these costs are a bargain compared to what you might pay without insurance.
Most people who don’t have insurance don’t get their care for free or even at a lower price, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). in fact, only 27% of the uninsured receive such discounts.
To make matters worse, hospitals often charge uninsured patients two to four times what health insurers and public programs typically pay for hospital services, kff says.
Without health insurance, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical bills. your bills could be so large as to be financially ruinous.
The average American spends more than $1,000 a year on prescription drugs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. a health insurance plan usually helps cover the cost of medications.
Drugs listed on your health plan’s formulary, which is the list approved by the insurer, will cost you less.
That doesn’t mean you should assume health insurance will always lower your drug costs. For starters, you often owe a copay, deductible, or coinsurance when you get these drugs. There are also situations where a prescription drug may cost less without health insurance.
why don’t people have insurance?
People often don’t have health insurance because they think they can’t afford it. that’s the most common reason people don’t have health insurance, according to kff.
a kff survey found that the top reasons people don’t buy health insurance are:
can i get health insurance after losing coverage?
There are multiple avenues to get health insurance if you lose coverage.
medical insurance charges
If you lose your job and the health insurance linked to it, you can usually extend your coverage at work through Cobra. That’s an expensive option since your previous employer may no longer help pay for the care, but it means you can keep your workplace coverage temporarily.
the health insurance market
You can buy a plan on the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace. An ACA plan generally costs more than an employer-sponsored group health insurance plan, unless you qualify for subsidies that lower the cost of ACA plans.
directly from a health insurance company
You could buy an individual health insurance plan directly from a health insurance company. But those plans don’t qualify for subsidies like plans in the health insurance marketplace.
from a spouse’s health plan
Another option if you’re married is to try to participate in your spouse’s plan. Employer-sponsored health insurance is often more affordable than getting an individual health plan, though adding it to your spouse’s plan may increase premiums.
Medicaid is another possibility if you qualify. Medicaid offers low-cost, comprehensive coverage to low-income Americans. State income requirements differ, so you want to check the rules for your specific state.
how to get affordable health insurance
The most affordable health insurance for many people is to get coverage through their workplace or spouse’s health insurance plan, when possible. If this is not an option for you, health insurance plans are available through the health insurance marketplace.
These plans can be expensive without subsidies. The good news is that millions of Americans qualify for subsidies from the federal government that can dramatically lower the price. if your income is a bit higher, you may not qualify for subsidies, which will make coverage more expensive. The federal government offers a tool to help determine if you qualify for these cost-sharing reductions.
One way to lower your costs is to buy a high-deductible health insurance plan and combine your coverage with a health savings account, which offers tax incentives that can put more money back in your pocket. In the market here, bronze and silver plans are often high-deductible health plans, which have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs when you need care.
when can you get health insurance?
You can usually choose or change health insurance during open enrollment. the open enrollment period varies by type of health insurance.
Aca’s market usually starts in November. 1 and ends on January 1. 15 in most states. some states that have their own marketplace have longer open enrollment periods.
Employers are how most Americans get health insurance coverage before they retire. employers have their own open enrollment period, so check with the employer for the specific open enrollment period.
Another option is special enrollment if you are facing a qualifying life event. qualifying events include getting married, having a child, getting divorced, or moving to a new state. You may be eligible for a special enrollment period to choose a new health plan in those cases.