Few of us can afford the insane cost of health care without health insurance. But in this sinking economy more and more of us have lost that safety net.
The good news is that some strands of the net remain in place. I'm lucky to be old enough to hang on to the biggest one, Medicare.
In November when I had to spend one night in the local hospital, they billed my insurance $2,310 for the room. But that was a minor part of the $11,518 bill. And it didn't include bills from two doctors.
Because of the deal that my insurance company cut with the hospital, that was a lot less than the room rate and other hospital charges they would have billed me as an uninsured patient. Is that unfair or what! I was lucky that my co-pay was only $450.
When I had to go back to the hospital a couple of weeks ago for a CT scan, they billed my insurance $4,688. I asked a nurse why that simple procedure should cost so much.
One reason, she said, was because people with insurance had to cover the cost of procedures for many people who don't have insurance.
My local hospital isn't one that will turn away people from the emergency room just because they're uninsured and broke. While this hospital isn't one of more than 200 health care facilities in the country that are obligated to provide free or reduced-cost care, it does provide emergency care, the cost of which they pass on to people with insurance to make up their deficit.
If you don't have health insurance and one of those facilities isn't too far from your home, it could be a good place to look for medical care. You are eligible if your income is at or below the government's current Poverty Guidelines. And you may be eligible for reduced-cost care if your income is as much as two times (triple for nursing home care) those guidelines.
Start by going to the government's website. You can also find the list of the 217 facilities online. Here in Colorado are eight of these facilities, although none are within a 100 miles of my home.
Health centers or clinics where you pay what you can afford based on your income might be an even better bet. Most cities and even many rural areas have these federally-funded centers.
Again, the place to start is a government website. I don't know how many of these centers are around the country. But here in Colorado alone are 124. The complete list is online.
If you can get treatment for your diabetes and other conditions with these tips, this is half the battle. The other challenge is to find medicine and diabetes supplies, like test strips, at a cost you can afford.
I will offer a few suggestions later. But first I'm looking for tips from the community. What works for you?