With the United States consistently coming in as the most expensive healthcare system in the world, it’s no wonder many people are struggling between buying necessities and health insurance plans.
Fortunately, there are healthcare options that don’t demand users forgo other essentials. With low-cost health insurance options and the below health insurance alternatives, you can take advantage of the benefits you deserve without paying a fortune.
Without further ado, let’s look at the best alternatives to health insurance, the average fees, and the pros and cons of each option.
5 Best Health Insurance Alternatives
In the United States, having health insurance is a must. If you’re considering your options, here are some alternatives to traditional health insurance coverage.
Medical Cost-Sharing Programs
Medical cost-sharing programs are group-collected funds that pay for medical expenses. The group members all pay a monthly fee which is then used to pay for the medical expenses of all the group members.
For example, if you need medical help, the cost-sharing program will delve into the accumulated funds and reimburse you or forward the money to pay the bill.
Medical cost-sharing programs are usually independent and work as non-profit organizations or religious groups. This is great because you won’t have to pay for other services and the program management costs are low.
The biggest benefit to members is the emergency cover. Medical cost-sharing is a great option for catastrophic incidents like accidents or emergency surgery.
To claim your emergency fund, you put in a claim with the medical cost-sharing program and pay a copayment. If the incident is covered by the sharing program, they’ll give you the money and you pay for the medical expenses. Or they’ll reimburse you for the cost of the procedure.
One thing to note is that medical cost-sharing programs don’t cover all emergency costs. It’s important to check what they’re willing to cover, especially if you have unique medical needs.
Because the medical cost share program covers big medical expenses, the premium tends to be higher. For a single person or a couple, the monthly cost of the program ranges from $400 to $800. For a family, expect to pay over $1000 a month.
There are of course outliers that could cost less, especially if you don’t mind working with a religious group that has other sources to help those in need.
There are also copayments, which can accumulate. For a big family, copayments average $4,000 a year.
- Great emergency or catastrophe cover
- Independent status lowers the monthly premium
- Quick access to funds and fast reimbursement
- Cash payments for medical treatments usually come with discounts
- Most people don’t have enough capital to pay upfront and wait for a reimbursement.
- Independent programs might have no copay maximums and aren’t regulated as strictly as medical insurance.
- Covering for unique medical situations can be spotty.
- May have religious requirements.
Who It’s Right For
Medical cost-sharing programs are great for people who need co-insurance for emergency hospitalization or people who can manage big upfront costs that are later reimbursed.
It’s also a great option if you don’t mind being part of a religious organization.
Care memberships, also known as concierge memberships and direct primary care, are monthly subscriptions that provide access to exclusive medical help.
Care memberships are paid to specific doctors, a medical group, or a hospital or clinic. This then gives you access to in-house treatment for no extra cost.
For example, if you have a care membership with a doctor in your region, you’ll have unlimited access to the doctor in exchange for a monthly fee.
For general health and well-being, care memberships are great. They provide unfettered access to basic health care and allow you to choose which doctor or medical group you work with.
The basics most care memberships cover include:
- Unlimited GP visits as a member
- Blood tests, usually in-house
- Lab work, usually in-house
- Pediatric care
- No copayments for medications
Many people use care memberships in conjunction with low-cost emergency health insurance for hospitalization and surgery.
Care memberships have diversified in recent years, with plans for everyone from students to big families. There are also care memberships all across the country and many affordable options.
On average, the yearly cost for the most basic care membership costs around $30 to $45 a month. This will provide only the most basic GP access. You can personalize the membership for a higher fee.
The cost of the membership is influenced by the number of dependents on the subscription. Family memberships or more comprehensive single’s memberships run anywhere between $125 to $200 per month.
Your location can also affect the price, with some high-cost states like Massachusetts and South Dakota charging close to $10,000 a year for a care membership.
- Option to choose the GP, hospital, or medical group you know and trust
- Coverage tiers with options that fit your budget
- Unlimited or close to unlimited basic healthcare access
- Family cover options and pediatric care options
- No deductibles or copayments on visits or prescriptions
- 24/7 priority healthcare with your care group
- No emergency hospitalization cover
- Requires supplementary catastrophe health insurance for full coverage
- Cover rates increase as you age
- Monthly costs for additional health care and comprehensive care memberships are expensive
Who It’s Right For
If you need access to dedicated care options or more doctor visits than your insurance offers, care memberships are the way to go.
It’s also a great option for bigger families or busy individuals who need access to 24/7 health care options.
Indemnity insurance is a co-insurance option that pays flat fees toward health care. The insurance has a catalog of health care services they cover and a set amount they’ll pay toward the procedure.
For example, if your indemnity insurance pays $70 for a specialist visit and you see one twice that year, they’ll pay $140 for the visits. You’ll be responsible for paying the rest of the visit costs.
Indemnity insurance options vary and give you the option to choose cover for the services you know you’ll use more often.
If you need more GP visits than your healthcare insurance offers, you can get indemnity insurance for GP visits. Or, if you need help with emergency healthcare, you can get indemnity insurance for accidents or surgery coverage.
Indemnity insurance is a co-insurance and isn’t viable on its own. It’s a supplementary insurance option for out-of-pocket expenses.
If you use healthcare services that your normal health insurance cover, you’ll still receive a payout from your indemnity healthcare insurance for the covered visit.
Indemnity insurance is costly, especially in states with higher health care costs. The premium is similar to that of normal health insurance.
A family could expect to pay anywhere between $1000 to $1400 a month.
Because the insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of medical services, it’s important to factor in medical expenses with the yearly indemnity insurance cost.
- Great supplement for services that aren’t covered by traditional health insurance
- Customizable cover options
- Offers payout to members even when the service is covered by traditional health insurance premiums
- It is as expensive as traditional healthcare programs
- Co-payments add up very quickly
Who It’s Right For
Indemnity insurance is great for people who need to supplement their existing health insurance, especially if they need more doctor visits than their insurance covers or need cover for recurring procedures.
Discount cards provide a discounted cash amount or a percentage off the final healthcare fee. They don’t apply to doctors’ visits but work great for specialist visits and chronic or expensive prescriptions.
For example, if you have a discount card that offers 20% off your chiropractor visit and the visit was $200, you’ll only pay $160.
The majority of discount cards only offer small deals but some offer as much as 70 or 80 percent off the final bill.
While they are helpful, discount cards won’t work as your only form of medical insurance. For one, they don’t offer reliable discounts. You can’t rely on the discount to be available every time you need it.
Another issue is trustworthiness. There are many discount card scams that could set you back in a time of need. Make sure to only use trusted discount card services.
Many health insurance companies also offer discount cards, so remember to always ask about their discount programs.
Discount cards are cataloged on a network that is accessible through an app or a website. To gain access to this network, you can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $25 a month.
- Very low entry cost
- Discounts, especially higher-tier ones, can make a huge dent in monthly costs
- Great for prescription medication or chronic disorders that aren’t covered by insurance
- Easy way to save extra money
- Not reliable for month-to-month needs
- Not a viable health insurance option on its own
- Discounts aren’t guaranteed
Who It’s Right For
Discount cards work great as a supplementary health insurance option. If you have insurance that only covers doctor’s visits or emergency events, discount cards can help cover the costs.
It also works for people who haven’t met their deductible but need help paying medical bills or getting prescriptions.
Paying Out Of Pocket For Medical Costs
The last health insurance alternative is paying for medical costs out of your pocket. This covers everything from general checkups to catastrophic events. There is no outside help and you are essentially self-insured and responsible for all medical fees.
Of course, there are no fees for this option because you cover all costs. You’ll simply pay for medical services as and when you need them.
A good year could be as little as two doctor visits. But a bad year (eg. you need emergency surgery or a long hospital stay) could set you back tens of thousands of dollars.
- You don’t have to pay any monthly premiums
- There are no limits, deductibles, or conditions to your doctor’s visits
- Very expensive, especially for emergency medical services, surgery, and hospital stays
- You could lose your wealth with long-term illnesses like cancer
- One year of bad health can be more expensive than even the most premium healthcare option
Who It’s Right For
Paying out of pocket works if you are wealthy, have no dependents, and are low-risk. Even then, hospital bills can quickly add up and we’d recommend investing in a comprehensive health insurance plan instead.
While the health insurance alternative options above are great as supplementary insurance, they don’t provide the care or stability of traditional health insurance. But many people believe health insurance isn’t a viable budget option.
Health insurance doesn’t have to be out of your reach. Enhance Health can help you find low to no-income insurance options that are comprehensive, honest, and extremely beneficial.
Contact our licensed insurance representatives and we’ll help you access premium healthcare without a premium price tag.