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Don't have health insurance? What is the worst that can happen?

While the number of uninsured Americans has decreased, many people still do not have any form of health insurance coverage. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows millions of people to choose a government-backed health care plan. However, many consumers are ineligible for benefits and many of those eligible have chosen not to participate.

In 2018, according to a US Census report, 8.5 percent of people, or 27.5 million adults (ages 19 to 64), were without health insurance at any time of the year. Census results showed that the uninsured rate and the number of uninsured increased since 2017 (7.9 percent, or 25.6 million).

Contrary to popular belief, healthcare providers are not required by law to provide medical services to the uninsured. Only emergency departments are legally required to provide care 2

The Transamerica Center for Health Studies published a report revealing that 62% of Americans have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, or obese.3 The study also found that only 56% of Americans may be uninsured Americans. They have to bear their usual health expenses

Transamerica CEO Hector de la Torre told Investopedia that the ACA requires that many preventive services be covered by insurance policies with no copayment. However, he says, "the lack of health coverage can prevent people from accessing free preventive care."

De La Torre explains that preventive care is essential to detect illnesses or conditions early before they become full-blown critical problems. Early detection of health problems increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful and also reduces the health care costs of treatment.

Medical debt

Without health insurance coverage, a serious accident or health problem leading to emergency care and / or an expensive treatment plan can lead to poor credit history or even bankruptcy.

"Diagnosing cancer, a car accident or even a broken leg can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket," Dylan Robby, assistant professor of health services management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, tells Investopedia.

As a result, medical debt has been the number one cause of personal bankruptcy for several years, according to De La Torre.5 Even when medical debt does not end in bankruptcy, it negatively affects consumers.

Nearly 137.1 million adults reported experiencing financial financial difficulties in 2018, according to research in the August 2019 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, consumers with large medical debt are less likely to save money and are more vulnerable to the kind of financial stress that leads them to give up their needs and borrow money.

No more tax penalties

In 2018, the ACA's tax penalty was $ 695 for adults and $ 347.50 for children, or 2% of annual per capita income, whichever is greater. However, when President Trump signed into law the Jobs and Tax Cuts Act, he abolished the ACA-related tax for Americans who refuse to buy health insurance.

As of 2019, the government does not impose taxes on Americans who do not have health insurance.7 However, individuals and families who choose not to have health insurance do so at their own risk.

The bottom line

Medical care is expensive, even with insurance. However, those without insurance coverage would be in a much worse situation. The inability to seek treatment for health problems and the overwhelming weight of medical bills are two important reasons for obtaining coverage.