The cost of healthcare in the United States continues to rise, and there’s no relief on the horizon. While most employers are required to provide access to at least a minimal level of insurance coverage for their employees, the cost premiums make many decide not to take advantage of that opportunity. And, with the gig economy growing everyday, more and more Americans are left on their own to navigate the financial side of their health.
For these reasons, you likely know many friends, family members, and colleagues who are either uninsured or under-insured right now. Sadly, this often leads to one of two results:
- Their and their families’ health gets neglected while they hope nothing serious happens, or…
- They’re forced to face the sometimes overwhelming financial burden of out-of-pocket medical costs.
Neither outcome is good. So, what can you do to help these people you know and care about? In fact, what can you do if you’re the one dealing with this situation? The following tips and resources can help.
Educate yourself (and them) about insurance alternatives
A popular children’s program used to end with an important lesson being learned and the words, “now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” This is certainly true when it comes to facing the challenge of rising healthcare costs without adequate insurance.
The first and most important lesson you and those you care about need to learn is that there are options available between full insurance coverage and paying in full out of pocket. With some diligence, you can locate providers and programs that will help make high quality affordable healthcare a reality.
The following previously published articles from the Top Dental and Wellness Stories blog will highlight many of these alternatives. While dental services are often used as the core example, the resources and recommendations presented translate just as well across all medical and wellness fields.
- Government, community, and private organizations offering low- or no-cost care
- Shopping for the best prices and negotiating lower fees
- Dental and wellness discount programs
Focus on prevention
When you think about your car or any other expensive and complex machine, you likely recognize the importance of preventive maintenance. No matter how well a car is built, if you don’t routinely change the oil, tune up the engine, and rotate the tires, you’re just asking for expensive and even dangerous problems down the road. At the very least, you’re going to get far less out of that vehicle than you would have if you’d taken those preventive measures.
Our bodies are much the same. They’re hard working, complex machines that can potentially break down on us. But, with the right preventive care, we can keep them running well for a very long time.
This preventive maintenance can include:
- Annual physical checkup
- Annual vision screening
- Annual hearing screening
- Semiannual dental cleaning and exam
- Other age- and gender-appropriate screenings as recommended by your doctor
Without insurance, all of these visits are likely to cost something, even using the available resources described above. But, unlike emergency room visits, surgeries, or treatment of chronic illness, they are relatively inexpensive with a tremendous return on the investment. And it’s through these preventive health screenings and procedures that you and your doctors can collaborate to eliminate risk, catch developing conditions early, and keep you and those you care about as healthy as possible.
Encourage healthy living
While diligently exploring all the options above can go a long way toward making dental and medical care affordable for the uninsured, it’s not nearly as effective as avoiding it by maintaining excellent health to the best of your ability.
Let’s go back to your vehicle. Even if you were to invest well in the necessary preventive maintenance throughout the year, what would happen if you filled the tank with low-quality gasoline, never filled the tires with air and never washed the car? It would look and feel awful, and could even end up dead on the side of the road.
Similarly, the importance of a good diet and exercise program cannot be overstated. Neither can avoiding bad habits like smoking or drinking to excess. Lowering your daily stress levels through mindfulness or relaxation techniques can also do wonders for your overall health. For you, your friends, family, and colleagues, maintaining a healthy lifestyle could be the single most effective way to control healthcare costs, even without insurance.
So, how can you help family, friends, and colleagues who are uninsured? Help them seek out available resources beyond traditional insurance to control healthcare costs. Help them focus on preventive care that can greatly reduce how much they eventually spend. And, help them see the importance of living a healthy lifestyle to avoid medical issues as much as possible.
While we can’t necessarily stop healthcare costs from rising, or fix the insurance situation in the United States, we can give ourselves and our loved ones the best possible chance of maintaining health affordably.