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Staying Healthy While Underemployed Sans Health Insurance in America

Imagine going into a local health care center with a simple cold and walking out with a bill totaling $500 or more? For millions of Americans without adequate insurance, this is a reality. The stagnant economy has forced many companies into only hiring part timers, which reduces the costs of benefits and overtime. This has created an entire working population of underemployed with no access to affordable health insurance.

(Image Credit: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net)

About Health Care Reform

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 put into motion many reforms in health care, including the need for more access to health care insurance options for the nation’s underemployed. By October of 2013, individuals and families not currently covered by insurance will have access to health care exchanges that will allow them to choose affordable private health care insurance (currently in progress in 33 US states and the District of Columbia).

Estimates of Americans Without Insurance

However, there are still many people who do not have access to preventative health care and treatments due to their employment status or income level. As of most recent reports during the 2010-2011 Census, the US Department of Health and Human Services reports, “an estimated 48.61 million people were without insurance”. This number dropped  1.4 million from the previous year for young adults in the age bracket of 21-26, because of health care reform allowing parents to maintain insurance on their college students. Additionally, “employer-sponsored insurance continues to be the largest source of health insurance coverage in 2011, covering 55.1% of the population.” That leaves a little less than half of all working Americans and their dependents seeking health care services using alternative means.

Getting Health Care with No Insurance

There are a number of ways that uninsured individuals and their families can access health care services. Low cost and even free preventative care services are available in most communities, whether sponsored through non-profit health care organizations or civic groups. Free and low income clinics often offer access to routine health care screenings and vaccinations. Corporate wellness programs and supplemental insurance plans may cover some costs or provide access to preventative support. Health care savings plans can be used to secure services through a network of providers, with discounts as much as 50 to 70 percent off standard rates.

Another growing trend in an uncertain health care market is the rise of cash-only, flat fee and income sensitive health care clinics that offer reduced rates for those who have no insurance or are underemployed. By shaving off the administrative costs of filing insurance claims, these healthcare providers pass the savings along to consumers. Oftentimes, cash clinics offer family discounts and encourage patients to refer others for added incentives.

How to Stay Healthy When Underemployed

It’s important to take care of your health, even if you are underemployed or between jobs. Seek out low cost alternatives to the emergency room and physician specialists whenever possible. Find out if you qualify for  Medicaid or Medicare. Take advantage of employer sponsored wellness programs. Keep an eye on the changes in health care reform so you can take advantage of health insurance coverage once your state approves the private health care exchanges. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of rest, and get the routine health care screenings you need to remain strong.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you access health care when you do not have health insurance?  Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below!

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