A Sudden Medical Emergency: What Happens If You Go to the Hospital with No Health Insurance?

January 25, 2019 by Susan Paige

No one ever wants to be in a situation that requires them to go to a hospital, but if you don’t have health insurance, that situation becomes doubly problematic. Without health insurance, you may be on the hook for incredibly expensive treatments that you need to be healthy again.

So, what happens when you end up in a hospital with no health insurance card to offer?

You will get treated

First off, medical professionals are still required to treat you, no matter what. You cannot be denied medical treatment if you are in need due to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). EMTALA is a federal law that was enacted in 1986 that mandated that emergency medical departments screen every patient that seeks care, and to stabilize those who needed it, whether they had medical insurance or could not pay. Unfortunately, if you don’t have health insurance, you’ll still have to pay for the medical bills. Even if you have health insurance, you will still need to cover your co-pay, which can be quite hefty.

You can negotiate your bills

Some hospitals may offer uninsured patients discount plans that can be paid off over time. If you don’t have the cash on hand for the initial installment, you can use a method like an online installment loan to help you pay off the initial cost. Just be sure you can pay the installment loan back as well.

If you are paying on a discount program, you’re likely to see bills come in on a monthly basis. You can also look into whether you qualify for a hospital program called “Charity Care.” Charity care is a state-mandated and partially state-funded program that helps uninsured people get care at a reduced price. Before being approved, you’ll need to meet a certain income and asset criteria to qualify. If you are eligible, the amount you owe will be reduced accordingly. If debt collectors are after you, applying for charity care can help halt that for a time.

If you don’t have insurance and you don’t have an actual emergency, you can visit an urgent care center. These locations are staffed with medical professionals that will treat your illness or injury, but you will not be charged nearly as much for that treatment. The only downside with these locations is that you may be forced to pay upfront before treatment is administered.

See if you qualify for ACA

The Affordable Care Act required Americans to sign up for health insurance or pay a penalty. This meant that many people who didn’t have insurance before were forced to sit down and review policies to compare which one would work best for them and their family. If you qualify for the ACA, it can be a great way to avoid the scary scenario of ending up at the hospital without health insurance and wondering how you’re going to pay the bill.

While the financial penalty may have seemed harsh, the government found it was the only way to motivate the vast majority of Americans to really consider their health insurance needs.

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