According to the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, 18 million people would either lose or drop their healthcare coverage during the first twelve months after an ACA repeal. Looking at the long-term, an additional 32 million people would go uninsured by 2026.
I’m no stranger to a world without health insurance. Prior to the ACA, I was only able to get coverage when I was expecting my children or during a few brief stints at severely underpaid jobs, where a good portion of my income went towards premiums.
I’m incredibly grateful to have it right now, even if it is expensive. But I’m preparing myself for the worst, primarily because many lawmakers have promised to deliver it. Luckily, thanks to past experience, I know how to navigate the world of healthcare when I’m uninsured.
Should you find yourself in these unfortunate masses over the coming years, here is where to go if you don’t have health insurance–assuming these organizations don’t lose their funding, too.
Healthcare for the Uninsured at the CDC
The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, has locations across the country–and they’re not just there for you if you have Ebola or Zika.
They also provide things like:
- low-cost vaccinations
- dental care
- addiction services
- environmental health services
- free STD testing and treatment
- medical tests for employment or school entry
On top of these services, they also have a wealth of information for all kinds of populations. Whether you have a specific disease or destructive habit, or want to keep up on what vaccinations your kid should be getting, their Healthy Living page covers the bare essentials for each stage of life for a vast diversity of populations. This way you know which health care services are vital to pay for, and when you may be able to get them at a discounted rate at the CDC.
We’ve used these services a few times ourselves over the years. At one point I needed a TB test for employment. At the time, I was able to get it at the CDC for $10. Currently, the Allegheny County location offers them for $25 for a one-part test and $35 for a two-part test. Inflation, I suppose, but still not bad.
When I was expecting, I had health insurance, but my husband didn’t. Regardless of whether or not you have insurance, anyone who is going to be around a newborn baby should have a D-Tap vaccine to protect the child from pertussis AKA whooping cough.
He went into the CDC and got his vaccination for $10. Since the cost of the TB test has gone up since then, I’m assuming the cost of this vaccination has gone up a bit, as well.
Childhood immunizations are free through a federally funded program. Hopefully this continues as it protects the health and safety of the entire population.
Where to Go if You’re Uninsured and Need Women’s Healthcare Services
First, let’s clear up some facts. Under Title X, federal dollars cannot be used to fund abortions, even when they are directed to Planned Parenthood.
Medicaid only covers abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother is likely to die if she continues carrying the child, with the exception of a few states with more expansive coverage.
So even today, before any alterations to the law, your tax dollars are not going towards abortions except in the most extreme cases–and then, only for low-income women in dire, physically traumatic situations. They are most certainly not going directly to Planned Parenthood for this service.
Here are two women’s healthcare providers I have had experience with as an uninsured woman:
They provided me with annual exams, low-cost birth control and pregnancy confirmation so I could get on insurance.
My Run-In With a Protestor
The latter is a fun story. I had an appointment to get my test, but when we walked up to the door there was a protestor. I buzzed up to the office, but they wouldn’t let me in. They said they were closed.
I asked them why they were answering their buzzer if they were closed on a random Thursday. No good answer.
I asked them why they had scheduled an appointment with me if they were closed. Still no good answer.
All this was going on while the middle-aged woman behind me was screaming at me not to kill my baby and I was going to hell. I think she may have had something to do with the doors being locked.
Eventually, I got fed up with it and gave her a few choice words.
She thought a moment, and then directed me to a Christian charity a few blocks down. She told me they’d give me the pee test for free.
We walked down there and the place was flooded and therefore closed. Thank God, because we later found out that in order to give you a pee test, they require you to sign a contract committing to giving up your child to a family that is more suitable, and they’re not always forthright about what you’re signing.
We found a different Planned Parenthood location that saw me as a walk-in patient.
Moral of the story: Be very careful to read what you’re signing when you’re consenting to free or low-cost healthcare.
Additional Services Provided by Planned Parenthood
Aside from the services I received at Planned Parenthood, they also provide low-income, uninsured people with:
- breast exams.
- STD testing and treatment.
- UTI treatment.
- sexual health education.
- eating disorder counseling.
- help for those in abusive relationships.
- infertility screenings.
- men’s sexual healthcare services, including but not limited to testicular and colon cancer screenings and vasectomies.
I used Adagio a couple of times for annual exams. They are exclusive to Western Pennsylvania. In my area, they had a much longer waiting period for an appointment than Planned Parenthood, but offered many of the same women’s health services.
You can still go to the doctor if you don’t have health insurance.
Going to the doctor is going to be more expensive than if you had a good health insurance plan with a low co-pay, but that does not mean you can’t go. Many doctors will accept you as a “self-pay” patient.
Because you’re uninsured, they are often willing to negotiate how much you pay. Essentially, everyone in healthcare inflates their prices so they can offer insurers seemingly massive discounts. They’re not really expecting to get full sticker price.
In my experience, I was almost always offered 50% off. I would establish this before I got any services, though, and keep in mind that you will need a separate agreement with any labs that might be running tests on any bio-matter you provide.
You should be able to negotiate down to Medicaid/Medicare rates, though, which are often 50% to 66% cheaper than the “gross price” they initially bill you.
Also, if you find yourself in the ER, be sure to go to a nonprofit hospital and ask about their financial assistance plan.
Spending on Healthcare is Important
Staying up on your and your family’s health is not only important for health reasons, but also financial.
No one needs to tell you how expensive health care is–especially without insurance. But using the resources that are out there may help prevent heartbreak and unavoidably outrageous bills. Please take the time to explore what you can do to take care of yourself and yours.