What To Do When You Need To See a Doctor but Don’t Have Insurance
Although a doctor’s visit can be costly if you don’t have insurance, there are ways to see your doctor at an affordable price. Some ways include utilizing government benefits, using free clinics, or community health centers. The out-of-pocket cost for a doctor’s visit ranges between $70-$250, but oftentimes it is much more than this due to additional testing, procedures, and administrative fees.
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How to See a Doctor When You Don’t Have Insurance
You should not avoid medical care due to cost, as this can lead to more long-term issues that could cost you more money and put you at greater risk. However, receiving medical care without insurance can be quite a concern because of the out-of-pocket costs. Below are several options you can consider if you don’t have insurance and need to see a doctor.
You may be qualified for Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These programs can help you and your family afford a doctor's visit with little to no co-pays. State health insurance assistance programs also exist to help you pay for otherwise unaffordable doctor visit bills.
If you do not qualify for the aforementioned programs, there are also charitable programs that can assist you with your medical bills at a free or reduced cost. This is oftentimes referred to as charity care, which is available at certain hospitals and healthcare facilities. To see if you qualify, patients have to apply, or the hospital will screen for it before sending the patient’s bill to collections.
Urgent care centers are a great way to receive immediate care and treat various conditions and symptoms. And oftentimes, they can make a direct payment via cash or credit card. While urgent care is less expensive than the emergency room, it can still be costly to go to urgent care without insurance.
Mira offers low-copays at hundreds of urgent care centers across the country for $45 per month. Membership also includes affordable and same-day lab testing, discounted prescriptions, and more.
Community Health Centers or Free Clinics
If you can't afford a doctor's visit, you may want to find community health centers in your area. Community health centers deliver comprehensive, culturally competent, high-quality primary health care services. They often integrate access to pharmacy, mental health, substance use disorder, and oral health services in areas where economic, geographic, or cultural barriers limit access to affordable health care services.
Health centers also deliver care to the Nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families, including people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, residents of public housing, and the Nation’s veterans. The Health Resources and Services Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable people.
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How Much a Doctor’s Visit Costs
The average doctor’s visit costs between $70 and $250. The out-of-pocket cost for your doctor’s visit will likely be costly. However, it can be difficult to estimate just how much it will really be. A doctor’s visit can cost as much as $600, but this number rises if additional testing, prescriptions, or lab work is needed, which we outline below.
Office Visit Cost & Administrative Fees
An office visit cost is the baseline fee you will have to pay regardless of what kind of testing or additional services you may inquire about during your visit. You can think of this as the cost to simply see the doctor.
Administrative fees are the additional fees doctors may charge to defray the costs of running their practice. These fees generally cover the amount of time they or their employees spend to provide medical advice via telephone, emailing patients and partners, and maintaining their medical records. These fees can range between $100 and $250 in addition to what you’re being charged for your visit.
Additional Testing & Costs
When seeking treatment from a doctor, your total out-of-pocket cost will depend on what is needed during the visit. Some of these factors include:
- Reason for Visit (e.g., Injury, Illness, Annual Physical)
- Diagnostic Tests
- Additional Tests and Lab Work
- Prescription Medication / Drugs
Level of Care Needed
There are different levels of care when it comes to a doctor’s visit. Levels of care are divided into primary care, secondary care, tertiary care, and quaternary care. Each level is related to the complexity of the medical cases being treated and the skills and specialties of the providers.
Primary care is the first and most generalized doctor’s visit in terms of symptoms and concerns. Secondary care is when a patient meets with a specialist and needs more specific care and expertise. Tertiary care or hospitalization may require specialized equipment or expertise. Quaternary care is even more specific but highly unusual.
As a patient needs higher levels of care, the costs will also increase for the doctor’s visit. The cost for an emergency room visit could range up to $3,000, while a primary care visit may cost you up to $600.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Doctor’s Visits Without Insurance
Below we outline some commonly asked questions about not being able to afford a doctor’s visit and what it could mean for you.
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Should I tell my doctor if I can’t afford a visit?
It could be a good idea to tell your doctor if you can’t afford your visit. There may be options they could utilize to make the visit more affordable. Some doctors may offer:
- Payment plans, so the patient doesn’t have to pay the bill all at once.
- A sliding scale where doctors help match your medical bills to your income level.
- Generic medications oftentimes, generic medications are a lot less expensive when compared to brand-name prescriptions.
How should I handle a surprise medical bill after not being able to afford care?
Receiving a bill that exists outside of your budget can be scary, but there are a few important points to keep in mind when navigating this process. First, it is imperative that you do not ignore the bill. Even if you cannot afford a bill, failure to pay a bill may result in long-standing effects on your credit score and may introduce the involvement of debt collectors. You may want to consider disputing the bill, especially if you disagree with a charge.
How can I avoid high costs when visiting the doctor?
Outlined below are several options that may help you when navigating your doctor visit without insurance:
- Before receiving care, ask what charges you can expect to see on your bill. Doing so will help you avoid any surprises and help you choose the exact care you want or deem necessary.
- Ask if there are cheaper alternatives to the care that you will be receiving. Depending on what kind of care you need for treatment, there may be less expensive alternatives your doctor could suggest.
- After receiving a bill, ensure that all prices are correct. You should review all services, tests, medications on the bill and confirm that you actually received them. Clerical errors occur more often than not, and a surprise medical fee may arise because of mistakes on the providers’ end.
- Negotiate how you will pay. You do not have to pay the entire bill at once. Oftentimes providers are willing to set up a regular payment plan. Although this bill may contain a late fee, most providers do not charge interest on your bill. This may be a better alternative to taking out a loan or opening a credit card for many.
- Negotiate the price you will pay. You can look up the price for many procedures via the Healthcare Bluebook. You may have been overcharged for a procedure or medication, in which case you may be able to negotiate the cost with your provider.
- Prepare beforehand. If you plan to go to an urgent care center, you may want to become a Mira member beforehand. Mira is $45 per month and provides members with access to low-cost urgent care visits, discounted prescriptions, lab testing, and more.
If you find that you’re in a situation where you can not afford a doctor’s visit, there are some options you can consider, and avoiding medical care can lead to further, more serious problems. Some more affordable healthcare options include urgent care, government benefits, charity care, and more.
If you think urgent care is the right choice for you, Mira allows you to access affordable visits, discounted prescriptions, and low-cost lab tests, all for $45 per month. Sign up today to get started!
Alyssa is a Senior Marketing Associate & Content Writer at Mira. She is passionate about educating others on how to affordably access healthcare.