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    What does ‘No Health Insurance’ really mean?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 7th, 2021

    What does ‘No Health Insurance’ really mean?

    Last year my son was laid off. He worked for a transportation company and since people were not traveling due to COVID, his services were no longer needed. With the loss of his job, he no longer had health insurance. He called me one day with complaints of severe leg pain. Due to concerns about COVID and knowing that symptoms can present in different ways, I told him to go to the emergency room (ER) to be evaluated. He went to the ER and after several tests, they concluded it was a muscle strain. I thanked God that it was not something more serious. He confided in me that he was reluctant to go to the ER due to concerns about the hospital bills that would be generated from the visit. I told him that one thing he should not do was to ignore the bill. When the bill finally arrived, I told him to call the billing office and explain to them the situation and see what could be done.  His bill was reduced by half and he was able to set up a monthly payment plan.

    I began to wonder how many people especially during this COVID time have postponed seeking health care due to lack of insurance. Are people aware that they can still have access to care even if they do not have insurance? How many people have avoided refilling their medications because they do not have insurance? The cost of health care is cheaper when diseases are diagnosed earlier than later. The medications to manage chronic disease are much cheaper than managing the consequences of not taking the medication. For example, it is cheaper to pay for the blood pressure medication than to pay for the hospital cost of taking care of a patient with a stroke who did not take their medication. Medications are cheaper than hospital bills.

    This is what I would like you to know:

    1. If you do not have insurance, you can still have access to care – If you have an established health care provider, you should still go for your regular check-ups especially if you have a chronic disease. When scheduling an appointment, you can explain to them your situation. It is important to notify your provider that you need a refill on your medications.
    2. If you do not have an established health care provider, you may consider going to a residency clinic. Some people shy away from these clinics because they feel that they are guinea pigs. This is far from the truth. You will typically see medical students and resident physicians in these clinics; however they are being supervised by an attending physician. An attending physician is a board certified physician in their field. Usually these clinics are providing the most up-to-date care. You are usually charged based on your income and for most it is free. To find one of these clinics near you, you can call the hospital system in your neighborhood and ask if they have a resident clinic in the specialty that you need. You can even call a medical school near you to get this information. While we are using our search engines, you can just put the words free clinics near you and see what pops up.
    3. What about your medications? You can always ask the pharmacy if there is a cheaper version of the drug that you are taking. You can ask for coupons. You can search GoodRx.  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not stop taking your medication. Be honest with your provider regarding your medications. They may have samples.
    4. What about the medical bills? Do not ignore them.  Be proactive. Call the providers or hospital and work on a payment plan. Be honest with what you can afford.

    Please do not ignore your health. Seek care if you have the following:

    • Abnormal uterine bleeding especially if you are bleeding after menopause.
    • Abnormal vaginal discharge especially when associated with itching or odor – sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise.
    • Burning with urination – may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
    • Breast lump or nipple discharge
    • Follow up on abnormal labs.
    • Positive pregnancy test – prenatal care is important. If you are trying to become pregnant, you should be taking vitamins that contain at least 400mcg folic acid.
    • Just not feeling right – if you have any concerns about your health, see your provider.

    One Response to “What does ‘No Health Insurance’ really mean?”

    1. Very important and timely message for our times!

    Leave a Reply

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