This article has been updated from a post originally published on 7/12/17.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare, has been controversial since its launch back in 2010. And to this day, there have been constant debates over whether to repeal it, replace it or keep it intact.
But regardless of legislation, many of the root problems in the American healthcare industry remain. Costs are on the rise, medical professionals are often overworked and malpractice insurance premiums are through the roof.
What can you do about obtaining affordable healthcare?
For the average American, this situation can feel overwhelming and out of control. And it’s easy to see how: we all need medical care, regardless if we can afford it or not.
In years past, obtaining affordable healthcare was primarily a concern for the unemployed or those who worked part-time. But more recently, many employers can’t afford to offer adequate health insurance and a growing number of employees choose not to buy it because of the steep cost of premiums. In fact, nearly 74% of uninsured adults say they are uninsured because the cost of coverage is too high.
So, what can you do to turn this trend around and afford care for you or your family? The key lies in educating yourself and proactively taking control of your health.
Part I: Educate yourself about affordable options
It’s important to recognize that there are a variety of options available for affordable healthcare. Here are five ideas to consider:
1.) The Health Insurance Marketplace
One benefit the ACA has provided is access to privately funded health insurance programs, along with premium tax credits to help Americans pay for coverage that would otherwise be out of reach. The Health Insurance Marketplace will show what options are available in your area and help determine if you qualify to receive a tax credit.2.) Medicare and Medicaid
In conjunction with the ACA, some states have revisited their Medicare and Medicaid programs to expand coverage and to allow more people to qualify. If you’ve researched Medicare or Medicaid in the past, you should consider revisiting these options to determine if coverage for you or a family member is now available.3.) Health Savings Accounts/Flexible Spending Accounts
To offer helpful alternative funding solutions, many insurance programs and employers have turned to facilitating health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA). Both are specialized accounts funded by individuals (either using pre-tax dollars or with end-of-year tax benefits available), specifically to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare costs throughout the year.4.) Discount programs
In response to rising healthcare costs, discount programs can provide valuable savings toward important medical needs such as doctors’ visits, dental care, prescriptions and hearing and vision services.
All these programs have their nuances, but most follow the same principles, which include providing a significant discount on healthcare in exchange for a low monthly fee. Investing in discount programs can put basic healthcare within reach of even the tightest budgets.5.) Community health centers
In addition to the free services and resources community health centers already provide, healthcare professionals may also volunteer a portion of their time to provide low- or no-cost services to members of the community. While the qualifications to participate may be strict, this could be a great opportunity to receive professional care.
To find a community health center near you, check out this helpful directory.
Part II: Take care of yourself
If you were to look up “ways to be healthy,” it can seem like there are countless experts, social media influencers and retailers telling you what’s right, what’s wrong, what to do and what to buy.
But no matter how many unsolicited opinions there are about the “best” ways be healthy, they all boil down to the same basic principles, which make up the second half of our list:
6.) Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of nutrients. Try eating with the seasons to maximize the benefits of fresh produce.
7.) Exercise regularly. For adults, that is a minimum of 21 minutes a day of moderate activity.
8.) Try to limit or eliminate stress wherever possible. This can be easier said than done, but practicing mindfulness is a great start.
9.) Quit harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Seriously, this is a huge step.
10.) Practice good dental care at home. Here are the four oral health habits to start today.
11.) Get to know your body and listen to what it has to say. Unlocking the keys to your happiness can help build that lifelong relationship.
Tip: If you are a self-employed or freelance worker, we have an entire series on how to take care of your physical and mental health. An even if you don’t fall under one of those umbrellas, the articles are chock-full of helpful tips and resources, so we encourage you to take a look!
The bottom line: The healthcare environment is constantly changing, but don’t let that stop you from getting the care you need. Between educating yourself on your options and taking on a proactive role in your health, you have all the tools you need to start your journey to affordable wellness.