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How do people without health insurance get medical care? Consumer Q&A

By on October 14th, 2011
Filed: Advice, Health Insurance, Uninsured, You

Some people are under the misapprehension that you need to have health insurance before a doctor will see you. This may be true in some cases – some HMO doctors, for example, are paid a set salary rather than based on how many patients they see, and so they may only see patients who are members of the HMO. But that’s an exception to the rule.

This week on Yahoo Answers we found a question from someone who seemed bowled over by the sheer number of uninsured Americans – 50 million – and wanted to know: surely these people never get sick – where do they go to get medical care when they need it?

That’s a question I’m sure some recently uninsured people wonder about too. The eHealthInsurance response was voted best answer:

The number of uninsured people in America has been hovering around that number for some years now. People without health insurance tend to get their medical care in the same places other people do. However, they’re less likely to go in for preventive care and more likely to visit an ER. They’re also likely to be charged more for the same medical services than people with health insurance. That’s because health insurance companies negotiate with doctors and hospitals to get discounted rates for their members. People without health insurance don’t benefit from those negotiated rates.

Let me add, if you want to learn more about negotiating medical bills, there was a good New York Times article about it a couple years ago. You can also find some helpful resources at Healthcare Blue Book.

Photo via Flickr user DorkyMum

About Douglas Dalrymple

Doug Dalrymple is a member of the communications team at eHealth, Inc. and has worked in the health insurance and technology industries for fifteen years. He works on communications strategy, content creation and management, project management, and corporate messaging.

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