What to Do If You’re Injured Without Health Insurance

Advice & Stories, Featured Article, Insurance, Planning & Saving
on May 29, 2015

We say: Hope for the best; prepare for the worst. And Eric Grzymkowski’s new book What Do I Do If…?: How to Get Out of Real-Life Worst-Case Scenarios is just the ticket. Offering straightforward, realistic solutions to a laundry list of worst case scenarios, What Do I Do If…? is your newest guide for making things right, from the world’s worst hangover to getting lost on a day hike. Here, Grzymkowkski shares a “what to do” for the injured and uninsured, pulled directly from the pages of his new book. 

What Do I Do If...?What Do I Do If…I Get Injured Without Health Insurance?

Likelihood of Happening: Moderate
Ease of Prevention: High
Is Time a Factor? No

Despite the fact that health insurance coverage is now mandatory in the United States, tens of millions of Americans still lack even minimal coverage. For those living paycheck to paycheck, even a small medical issue like a broken bone or an overnight stay in a hospital can spell financial ruin.

Apply Immediately

The Affordable Care Act, which made health insurance coverage compulsory for all Americans, also contains a provision that prevents health insurance providers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. This includes everything from asthma, diabetes, cancer, and even chronic back pain and previous injuries.

Unfortunately, you can only apply for coverage during the designated open enrollment period that usually begins sometime in October or November for plans starting on January 1 of the following year. There are some exceptions, though.

You can apply for coverage at any point during the year if you have recently experienced one of the following:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • Had or adopted a child, or placed a child up for adoption or in foster care
  • Moved your residence, obtained citizenship, or were released from prison
  • Lost health care coverage due to loss of employment, aging out of a parent’s health care coverage, losing Medicaid or CHIP coverage, or a similar circumstance

So if the stars align, you might be able to apply for coverage immediately after the incident. Keep in mind, however, that your new coverage might not retroactively cover the expenses already incurred. It may only apply to future treatment.

Get Treated Anyway

While there are many small injuries that can be treated at home, failing to go to the hospital for others could cost you your life. Even if you do not have health insurance coverage, hospitals are required by law to provide you with the necessary treatment. If you are seriously injured, seek immediate medical treatment regardless of your financial status. Your life is far more important than the costs you will incur.

If your injury is relatively minor, you may be able to find a free clinic in your area that can provide sufficient care to handle the problem.

While there may still be a small fee, it will likely be significantly less expensive than if you were to go to the emergency room. You may also be able to find a nonprofit group in your area that may be able to help you pay any bills you are unable to afford yourself.

Work with the Hospital

Once your injury has been successfully treated, you can sit down with an administrator at the hospital to discuss your options for paying for your care. In some cases, hospitals will reduce the amount owed dependent on your income, or set you up on a payment plan that will allow you to repay the debt over time. You may also be able to lower the debt if you agree to pay in cash. If you are uncomfortable handling the negotiations yourself, there are a variety of private companies that will handle the back and forth for you.

Excerpted from What Do I Do If…?: How to Get Out of Real-Life Worst-Case Scenarios Copyright © by Eric Grzymkowski and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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