Can't Afford Health Insurance? Here Are 5 Alternatives - Fox Business

by Kathryn Buschman Vasel

Source - Fox Business

As the economy continues to sputter and the health-care reform battle rages on, many U.S. families without health insurance don't know of options already available to them that could alleviate much stress and worry.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans without health insurance rose to 46.3 million in 2009, that's a lot of full-football stadiums worth of people without guaranteed medical coverage. 

Here are five alternatives to health insurance that won't break the budget.

No.1: Sign Up for a Discount Health-Card Program

There are many non-insurance programs out there that allow consumers to pay a monthly membership fee to get access to a variety of health-care providers, according to Allen Erenbaum from the Council for the Consumer Health Alliance.

"A typical discount program would include a fee which can include coverage for just one person or a family and gives you access to discounted care, dental, drugs, hearing and sometimes even chiropractors," he said.

Each plan differs on coverage, so if you routinely need to see a chiropractor or dentist, make sure to choose your program accordingly, Erenbaum suggests.

The programs vary in price, with some costing as little as $5 month, according to Erenbaum.

No. 2: Call Your County and State

There are a lot of state programs for families and individuals who find themselves without insurance, according to Knott. Call your state and local health department or community health center.

"Florida recently started a program called ‘Cover Florida Health Care,' which offers basic preventative and minimal care and has been significantly under-utilized due to lack of advertising," Knott said. 

No. 3: Retail Clinics

Walk-in clinics, often located in big retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT: 53.5001, 0.0901, 0.17%) and Target (TGT: 51.02, -0.25, -0.49%) and staffed by nurse practitioners, are becoming more popular thanks to their convenient locations and no-appointment-necessary policy, according to Devon Herrick, a senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis.

"A retail clinic can cut your bill in half compared to that from a doctor's office or the emergency room," Herrick said. The clinics can offer routine services like immunizations, strep tests and prescriptions.

"Many times the quality of care is equal, if not better, than traditional treatment in a doctor's office," Herrick said. A recent study from Deloitte estimates there are roughly 1,100 to 1,200 retail clinics nationwide.

No. 4: If Possible, Pay With Cash

The discount varies from hospitals and doctors, but you will get a discount if you pay for a procedure or appointment in cash, according to Laura Casey, author of "How to Get the Health Care You Want."

"Make sure to ask the providers about their self-pay discount plan; they should all have one and some have plans that have zero interest."

Knott suggests using Web sites like that allow you to put in your zip code and necessary treatments or surgeries, and it will give you an average cost. 

No. 5: Join the ‘Club'

For annual membership fees of $480 for individuals ($40 a month) and $680 for families (less than $60 a month), the "No Insurance Club" offers basic medical services, 12 doctor visits a year and 20 tests and services. The plan offers board-certified physicians and requires no deductibles, no additional premiums and no co-payments.

The program is currently available in nine states, but is looking to expand. Services vary from state to state, but often include services like flu shots, pregnancy testing, annual check ups, vision tests and sports physicals.

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