Why Get Health Insurance If You Can’t Pay the Deductible?

Let me explain why you should get health insurance even if you can't afford the deductible. Image © cultura/dotdotred/Getty Images

You want to get health insurance, but when you look at the deductible, you know you’ll never be able to pay it. Why should you bother getting health insurance and paying the monthly premium if you could never afford to use it?

As it turns out, there are several reasons to get health insurance even if you can’t afford the deductible.

Health Insurance Pays for Some Things Before You Pay the Deductible

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, as long as your health plan isn’t grandfathered, it will pay for your recommended preventive health care without requiring a deductible, copays, or coinsurance.

You’ll get care like your yearly physical exam, your yearly screening mammogram, and your flu shot without paying a dime as long as you use an in-network provider. In most cases, even your birth control will be free.

Health Care You Get Without Paying Your Deductible

You Get a Discount Even If You Don’t Pay Your Full Deductible

If you enroll in a managed care health plan like a PPO or HMO, you’ll get a discount on all of your health care services as long as you stay in-network. This will help you save money on health care even if you don’t pay your full deductible.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you sprained your ankle so badly you thought it might be broken. You go to an urgent care center. Even though you haven’t met the deductible, you still get the in-network discount. The bill you have to pay is smaller than it would have been if you didn’t have health insurance.


In-Network Discounted Rate

Self Pay Rate

Urgent Care Doctor






Crutches and Ace Wrap






The Total You Would Pay




Unexpected Medical Disasters

Let’s face it; most of us don’t plan on getting sick. Even fewer plan on becoming critically ill. But, it happens. The true value of health insurance isn’t in saving you $100 here or there. It’s in saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars, or saving your life because you wouldn’t have been able to afford the care you needed otherwise.

The costs of some life-saving medical treatments make even a large deductible of $6,000 seem insignificant in comparison.

Here’s a story to illustrate. A few years ago, my neighbor got multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. She needed a bone marrow transplant to save her life. The hospital estimated her treatment would cost about $400,000. It wouldn’t proceed with the treatment until her health plan had agreed to pay for the bone marrow transplant.

The hospital didn’t ask my neighbor if she had already paid her deductible that year. Granted, it probably got that information directly from the health insurance company when it confirmed her coverage. But, neither did the hospital demand that my neighbor pay her deductible in full before getting the bone marrow transplant.

Could my neighbor have gotten her bone marrow transplant at a county hospital or charity hospital if she hadn’t had health insurance? Maybe. But, that would have taken weeks to happen. Meanwhile, every day her cancer cells were growing and dividing.

I’m not sure how high my neighbor’s deductible was, or if she had trouble paying it. I am sure she’s alive today because of the treatment she got. It would have been nearly impossible for her to have paid for that treatment herself.

Faced with going into debt over even the highest deductible versus dying, I’ll choose debt every time.

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