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Uninsured? 5 Tips to Negotiating For Health Care

Despite the talk in Washington about health care reform, which could potentially provide health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, legislation to be enacted in the future does not help if you are uninsured now.  If you are not covered by any current health insurance carrier or are worried about losing employer-based or university-subsidized health insurance, there is something you should know.

You might be able to negotiate your way to basic health care. 

Here are a few steps to take that may enable you to have critical face time with a health care professional, without the admission ticket of health insurance.

1. Talk to your doctor or the office manager.  If you have a family physician or specialist who you have been seeing regularly, you may want to ask her or him directly about possibility of discounted service for visits without health care coverage.  Especially if the doctor's office is not affiliated with a larger practice or network, it may be able to accommodate alternative payment options.

2. Prioritize your health care needs.  Do you need to see a doctor for preventative care or to treat a specific condition? Without health insurance, even after negotiating, health care costs can still add up quickly.  So be sure to get the most important health needs met first.

3. Emphasize your flexibility.  If you are requesting discounted rates use flexibility as a bargaining chip.  Offer to come in early or late or at non-peak hours.  A doctor is more likely to be able to fit you at a time when the waiting room is empty rather than when there is a long line of insured patients in line.

4. Consider going to a walk-in clinic or  medical school.  Walk-in clinics, though notorious for long lines, can get you in front of a doctor for less.  So if you think you need a prescription for an antibiotic to fight a cold or flu, consider stopping in first at a local walk-in clinic.  Another option is to go to a local medical teaching facility.  You may be able to be checked by a medical, dental, or optometry student at a more cost-effective rate--and their work is supervisors by experienced professionals.

5. Ask a nurse.  Nurses often see a large number of patients with a broad range of conditions.  You may want to get an initial opinion from a nurse before deciding on your next course of action. 

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