In 2018, over 28 million Americans were uninsured.1 The American healthcare system is difficult to navigate, and healthcare is notoriously expensive - even for those with health insurance.
Although policy changes in 2019 eliminated the tax for not having health insurance, going uninsured still carries substantial mental, economic and physical burdens.2 These are issues you may face if you choose to be uninsured.
Problem #1: It Harms Your Physical Health
A Harvard study found that 45,000 deaths a year correlate with a lack of health coverage, meaning being uninsured increases your risk of death by a shocking 40 percent.3 The reason behind this is that insured individuals have access to the healthcare and medication required to treat common health conditions. Meanwhile, uninsured individuals can suffer disproportionate - and even fatal - health effects from otherwise manageable conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Routine care providers are actually not required to provide you with service if you’re uninsured; only emergency medical services are required to do so.4 This is precisely how health conditions can fly under the radar or go untreated and cause more harm in the long run.
Problem #2: It Harms Your Finances
If you do need access to health services, you’ll almost certainly be paying out-of-pocket. This type of spending is heavily associated with medical debt.5
While there are health clinics and other resources for low-cost healthcare, any unforeseen emergency care can leave you thousands of dollars in debt and even leave you or your family bankrupt. Seventy-five percent of the uninsured population worries about paying for healthcare bills if they get sick, and just paying for regular medication can present an undue burden to uninsured individuals.6 Remaining uninsured can be an unpredictable variable for your finances.
Problem #3: It Harms Your Mental Health
The burdens imposed by being uninsured are not the only things harmful to your mental state; uninsured individuals are also less likely to receive adequate treatment for mental illness.7
A lack of insurance by itself can be a huge stressor. This can cause more stress about your condition of health and finances, and in the event that your finances take a particularly large hit, even more worry. Just as physical ailments can go unnoticed, mental ailments can too - and their effects can be just as devastating.
Being uninsured carries a lot of unforeseen costs, monetary or not. If you can afford health insurance yet decide to deny coverage, these are risks you should acknowledge. However, many individuals remain uninsured because they cannot afford the costs involved. If this is the case, be sure to research resources for uninsured individuals that can help you access important medical care without breaking the bank.