I’m 21 and a part-time student. The only time I’ve had medical insurance in the last 10 years was accident and sickness insurance from my college, which was bundled into my massive $43,000 private school tuition costs. This insurance, had I needed it, would have covered a couple clinic visits, only a couple thousand in hospital bills (maybe an MRI, anything else and I’d be fucked), and $100 worth of Rxes. (My Ambien CR alone was $180 for 30 tablets.)
When I was in high school, my high school referred my mom to NJFamilyCare but we had too much in assets– my parents were living off borrowed money for years.
Things I’ve learned since turning 18 about how to survive without insurance:
1. Get a reasonable primary care doctor. Mine’s a dick and will only give me a month refill at a time so I’d have to spend $100 to go in just so he could write me a new script for the same stuff. If it’s a maintenance medication that you’ve been on for a while, unless you’re being monitored for changes, you should get a 6 month supply.
2 . Planned Parenthood for gynecological health. I was a little worried I would get sub-par care at an abortion factory, but Planned Parenthood turned out to be the shit. They were quicker and more professional than my regular gyn, and I will never go back to that lame office (2 month wait for an annual exam, wtf?) again.
Prices vary per clinic, but I went to one for an exam, comprehensive testing (pap, HIV, Chlamydia), and birth control. I got a 2 months supply of a low-hormone generic birth control right at the clinic and the total bill at the end of the day $98.
Also, they were able to get me on a prescription assistance program and I was able to get my first shot of the HPV vaccine for only $31.
3. On that note, you can ask your physician about prescription assistance programs, for certain medications. They’re usually offered by the pharmaceutical company and go by the federal poverty line for income.
4. AAA prescription discount. If you cant afford insurance, most likely you can’t afford a motor club plan, but in case you do, you can get Rx discount.
5. Keep your eye open for free deals. Some hospitals offer free clinics for routine procedures like breast exams and pap smears. I’ve seen flyers for these clinics in doctor’s offices.
The dentist I switched to offered a free exam and free Xray to all new customers, so I coupled that with a cleaning, all for $90.
6. Ask questions and avoid unnecessary testing. Every time a doctor recommends a procedure, ask how much it will cost. If you don’t understand why you need it, ask why.
If you’re in the ER, ask if your doctor is a resident, what year (first years have the least experience), and if they cleared all procedures with their attending.
Doctors are not infallible human beings. Thousands of mistakes are made each year and sometimes people die as a result. If something really doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion.