Don’t Have Health Insurance? What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Susan Kelly

Jun 12, 2022

Even though the number of Americans who don't have health insurance has gone down, there are still a lot of people who don't have any. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now in place, millions of people can choose a health plan that the government will pay for. But a lot of customers don't qualify for subsidies and a lot of those who do have chosen not to take part. In the first half of 2020, 9.7 percent, or 31.6 million adults of all ages, did not have health insurance, according to a report from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The survey showed that the number and rate of uninsured people went down from 2019 to 2020, but the change was not very big. So what if you don’t have health insurance? What’s the worst that could happen? Let us find out.

Not Having Any Medical Services

Most people think that health care providers have to help people who don't have insurance, but that's not true. By law, only emergency rooms have to help people. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says that six out of ten Americans have long-term health problems like being overweight, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or obesity. A study by the Transamerica Institute found that 66% of people without health insurance were sick for a long time. Ninety percent of the $3.8 trillion that the country spends on health care every year goes to people with long-term illnesses and mental health problems.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) says that many preventive services must be covered for free by insurance plans. But people without health insurance might not be able to get free care to stay healthy. De La Torre says that the best way to catch diseases or conditions early, before they become big problems, is through preventive maintenance. When health problems are found before, they are more likely to be treated successfully and cost less.

Medical Liabilities

Without health insurance, a severe accident or illness that needs emergency care and expensive treatment could hurt your credit or even put you so far in debt that you can't pay your bills. A broken leg, a cancer diagnosis, or even a car accident can cost you thousands of dollars. De La Torre says that this is why medical debt has been the leading cause of bankruptcy for several years. Even if medical debt doesn't cause people to go bankrupt, it still hurts them.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 17.8% of people will still be paying off medical debt in June 2020. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that people who have a lot of medical debt are less likely to be able to save cash and more likely to feel the kind of financial stress that makes them skip out on necessities and borrow money.

No More Penalties for Paying Taxes

In 2018, the tax penalty for not having health insurance was $695 for adults and $347.50 for children, or 2% of a person's annual income, whichever was higher. But when former President Donald J. Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Dec. 22, 2017, it eliminated the ACA tax on people who don't have health insurance. People in the U.S. who don't have health insurance don't have to pay taxes as of 2019. But families and individuals without health insurance do so at their own risk.

Why It's Important to Get Health Insurance

Even if you don't want to pay for health insurance, there are good reasons why you should. A medical emergency like appendicitis or a broken leg from an accident can cost a lot of money. says that it can cost up to $7,500 to put a broken leg in a cast. You can expect to pay about $30,000 for a three-day hospital stay.

Medical debt can bankrupt you. If you break both legs in a car crash, you'll be in the hospital for a few days. With bills of $15,000 for the broken legs and $30,000 for the three-day hospital stay, you could suddenly be $45,000 in debt. There are many hospitals that will assist you in establishing a payment plan; nevertheless, the lowest payments might be higher than you are able to pay, and it may require periods for you to completely pay off the debt.

Health insurance also makes it easier to get preventive care, so you don't require more costly methods later on. When you take care of minor problems, such as sinus or ear infections, you can avoid getting bigger ones.

In Conclusion

Even if you are covered by insurance, it may be pretty expensive to get medical treatment. People who do not have health insurance, on the other hand, will be in a considerably more precarious situation. Two of the most important reasons to get coverage are the risk of being unable to receive treatment for existing health conditions and the risk of accumulating unmanageable medical debt.

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