Health Insurance

Benefits and Consequences of Not Having Health Insurance

Khang T. Vuong, MHA
Khang T. Vuong, MHA30 May 2023

 The pros of not having health insurance include avoiding premium costs, increased choice in healthcare providers, and potential tax benefits. However, the cons consist of high out-of-pocket expenses, limited access to care, and a lack of financial protection against catastrophic events. Health insurance is most frequently utilized for events such as childbirth, mental health disorders, and surgeries. Carefully considering these pros, cons, and the importance of coverage for common medical events can help individuals make an informed decision about whether to obtain health insurance.

The Pros of Not Having Health Insurance

1. Save Money on Premium Costs

With inflation being as high as 9.1% as of June 2022, rationing purchases has been one of the hottest top-of-mind topics for everyone. One of the most significant advantages of not having health insurance is the avoidance of monthly or yearly premiums. Individuals who choose to forego insurance aren't required to pay these regular costs, which can add up significantly over time. This can be particularly beneficial for those in good health or with low healthcare utilization rates, as they may not require frequent medical attention.

  • The average annual premiums in 2022 are $7,911 for single coverage and $22,463 for family coverage.
  • The average monthly cost of health insurance in 2022 is $644 for individuals and $1,851 for families.
  • The average family premium has increased 20% since 2017 and 43% since 2012.
  • The average annual deductible for single, individual coverage is $4,364 and $8,439 for family coverage.

According to McKinsey, each individual without health insurance spends on average $1200 in out-of-pocket expenses in healthcare. While the fear of catastrophic risk is real, the healthcare usage pattern for most people is more predictable than you think. 

2.Increased Choice in Healthcare Providers

Without health insurance, individuals aren't bound by network limitations imposed by insurance providers. This means they have access to a larger pool of doctors and specialists and greater choices when it comes to their healthcare providers. In turn, this may lead to better quality care and improved patient-doctor relationships.

The trend of narrow network health insurance plans is becoming increasingly popular as a way to mitigate rising premium expenses1. Narrow network plans limit the providers that the plan works with, often done by lowering reimbursement rates for providers. This results in limiting in-network providers to those providers willing to accept the plan’s rates1. According to2, a plan with narrow physician and hospital networks was 16 percent cheaper. Narrow network plans provide a way to contain costs without sacrificing care, but because they're comprised of local, community-based medical providers, they're often criticized for limiting patient choice3. A distinctive trend in US health insurance is narrow networks that limit in-network services to a restricted set of clinicians and facilities4. In 2018, most ACA exchange plans featured a narrow network

C. Potential Tax Benefits

There can also be tax benefits associated with not having health insurance. For instance, individuals are allowed to deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income. Moreover, those who have high-deductible health plans can use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for tax-free contributions for qualified medical expenses.

The Consequences of Not Having Health Insurance

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A. High out-of-pocket expenses

The most notable disadvantage of not having health insurance is the potentially high out-of-pocket expenses individuals must pay for medical services. Those without coverage typically bear the full burden of their medical costs. This can be particularly problematic for people with chronic conditions or those who experience medical emergencies, as their healthcare costs could quickly become unaffordable.

For example, without health insurance, an urgent care visit can cost anywhere between $80 and $440 out of pocket. However, these high costs don’t necessarily go away with health insurance due to high deductibles. With a deductible, you are responsible for the total healthcare cost until he deductible amount is met. 

B. Limited access to care

Without health insurance, finding affordable and appropriate care can be challenging. Uninsured individuals are less likely to have access to necessary medical care and often delay treatment due to cost concerns. This may lead to worsening health outcomes and even life-threatening situations.

C. Lack of financial protection against catastrophic events

Not having health insurance leaves individuals vulnerable to financial ruin in the event of a catastrophic medical event. Medical debt was found to be a leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. Without coverage, unexpected high-cost medical procedures can lead to devastating financial consequences.

Events Health Insurance is Most Frequently Used For

A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that the most common reason for adults with private insurance to visit the hospital was childbirth (47.4%), followed by mental health disorders (9.3%) and joint replacement surgery (7.5%). For adults enrolled in Medicaid, mental health disorders were the most common reason for hospitalization (17%), followed by childbirth (12.1%) and surgery for coronary artery disease (8.6%).

These events can lead to hefty out-of-pocket expenses for those without insurance, potentially causing significant financial hardship. The average cost of a normal childbirth in the United States is around $10,000, while a cesarean section can exceed $15,000. Mental health treatment costs can also be high, with inpatient stays ranging from $6,000 to $15,000 or more.

Frequently Asked Questions

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A. Can I get healthcare without insurance?

Yes, it is possible to obtain healthcare without insurance; however, you would be responsible for covering the entire cost of any services received. This can become prohibitive for many, especially in the case of expensive treatments or ongoing healthcare needs.

B. What are the fines for not having health insurance?

The individual mandate penalty for not having health insurance was removed in 2019, so there are no longer financial penalties for being uninsured.

C. Are there any government options for those without health insurance?

There are government options available to those in need of healthcare coverage. Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health coverage for low-income individuals and families. In addition, community health centers across the country offer free or low-cost healthcare services for underserved populations, regardless of insurance status.

D. How can I obtain affordable health insurance?

The most common avenue for obtaining health insurance is through the Health Insurance Marketplace during the annual Open Enrollment Period. Here, you can shop, compare plans, and purchase coverage best suited to your needs. Additionally, some states offer extended enrollment periods or special enrollment periods for individuals experiencing qualifying life events.

In conclusion, the decision to have or not have health insurance is a personal one that depends on various factors such as an individual's overall health status, financial standing, and preference for healthcare providers. Understanding the pros and cons discussed in this article along with being aware of the most frequent events requiring healthcare can help you make an informed choice that best suits your unique circumstances. It is crucial to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits before making a final decision.



- eHealth:

- (Network Limitations):

- IRS (Tax Deductions):

- Kaiser Family Foundation:

- American Journal of Public Health:

- American Journal of Medicine:

- IRS (Individual Mandate):

- (Medicaid and CHIP):

- Health Resources and Services Administration:

- (Open Enrollment):

- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:

Khang T. Vuong, MHA

Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.