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Can't Afford Health Insurance? Here are Some Alternatives


As the economy continues to sputter and the health care reform battle rages on, many U.S. families without health insurance don't know of options already available to them that could alleviate much stress and worry, 

There are several alternatives to health insurance that won't break the budget, says 

Sign up for a discount health card program: 

  • There are many non-insurance programs out there that allow consumers to pay a monthly membership fee to get access to a variety of health care providers, according to Allen Erenbaum from the Council for the Consumer Health Alliance.
  • A typical discount program would include a fee which can include coverage for just one person or a family and gives you access to discounted care, dental, drugs, hearing and sometimes even chiropractors.
  • Each plan differs on coverage, so if you routinely need to see a chiropractor or dentist, make sure to choose your program accordingly.
  • Check out the Consumer Health Alliance Web site for more information; the programs vary in price, with some costing as little as $5 month. 

Retail clinics: 

  • Walk-in clinics, often located in big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target and staffed by nurse practitioners, are becoming more popular thanks to their convenient locations and no-appointment-necessary policy, according to Devon Herrick, a senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis.
  • A retail clinic can cut your bill in half compared to that from a doctor's office or the emergency room; the clinics can offer routine services like immunizations, strep tests and prescriptions.
  • Many times the quality of care is equal, if not better, than traditional treatment in a doctor's office; a recent study from Deloitte estimates there are roughly 1,100 to 1,200 retail clinics nationwide. 

If possible, pay with cash: 

  • The discount varies from hospitals and doctors, but you will get a discount if you pay for a procedure or appointment in cash, according to author Laura Casey.
  • Make sure to ask the providers about their self-pay discount plan; they should all have one and some have plans that have zero interest.
  • Knott suggests using Websites like that allow you to put in your zip code and necessary treatments or surgeries, and it will give you an average cost.  

Source: Kathryn Buschman Vasel, "Can't Afford Health Insurance? Here Are 5 Alternatives,", February 1, 2010. 

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