You are here: Home Finances Uninsured: How To ... Overview
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


If you have limited funds, or no funds at all, getting medical care without insurance can be difficult, but it is doable.

Start with the attitude that you will obtain the health care you need. It may take time and effort, but it is worth the effort. Your life may be at stake.

  • If you take some time to learn about your health condition, you will be able to make more informed decisions about your treatment and avoid unnecessary tests. If you do not have access to a medical professional to provide this information, you can get a reasonable idea from the many resources that are available on the Internet, including specific sites for various ailments. To avoid misinformation see Medical Research 101.
  • Do what you can to maintain and improve your health. For example, you can help maximize your body's ability to fight illness by doing the following:
    • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
    • Get regular exercise. Exercise doesn't have to be in a gym. Our article also provides information about incorporating exercise into your daily life.
    • Get rest.

Do everything you can to become insured. Because of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), health insurance is obtainable despite your health condition.

Whatever you do -- do not give up until you get the care you need.

Our discussion about getting health care without insurance is divided into health care subjects. As you review the information that applies to you, please keep in mind the following tips for saving money on medical costs:

  • Avoid unnecessary lab tests. Always question the need for lab tests, especially if you have had the same test recently. Do-it-yourself tests are available for simple procedures such as vision testing, blood pressure, lung function, etc.
  • For matters which are clearly not related to your health condition, consider starting with inexpensive self-diagnostic tools. If there is any chance the symptom(s) could be related to your condition, consult a doctor immediately. The American Academy of Family Physicians and WebMD offer some do-it-yourself information. See:
  • Avoid unnecessary hospital stays. If a doctor recommends you enter a hospital, ask if the situation can be taken care of on an outpatient basis. It is often easier for the doctor if you are admitted to a hospital. For example, one of our writers needed elective surgery. The doctor recommended that Edward would be in the hospital for two ro three days. Edward pointed out that he could be taken care of at home on a 24 hour basis, and be back at the hospital within 15 minutes if an emergency arose. He preferred not to unnecessarily be exposed to the heavyweight germs that can be found in hospitals. The operation was performed in the hospital on an out-patient basis. Edward was allowed to leave the hospital immediately after surgery and recuperate at home.
  • See How To Save Money When Purchasing Or Using Drugs
  • For additional tips for saving money see: Spending Less.

If the following information doesn't help, look at:

For more information, see:


  • If you are uninsured and need emergency care, you can go to any hospital in the U.S. that has an emergency room. Under law, emergency rooms have to provide emergency care regardless of your ability to pay. (That doesn't mean that the hospital won't bill you and try to collect. But it does mean that you have to be be treated first.)
  • If you live in Kentucky, Nevada, Tennessee or Virginia: There may be a weekend of free medical care in your area that also helps find ongoing medical care for the people treated during the weekend. See: offsite link
  • To learn the fair cost in your area of the service or treatment you need, check on line. For example:
  • If you have financial concerns, it is worth reading How To Deal With A Financial Crunch or Crisis

How To Obtain Care If You Are Injured And Uninsured

If you are injured, how to pay for care depends on whether you were injured in an automobile accident, on the job, or otherwise. NOTE: It is best not to reach an agreement or sign anything relating to fault or compensation for your injury before consulting with a lawyer.

If You Are Injured In An Automobile Accident

There is a good probability that there is insurance to cover medical bills related to the accident - either from insurance covering the car you were riding in or the other car. For information, see Automobile Insurance.

If there is no insurance coverage, there may be coverage for medical bills in an insurance policy you or a member of your household have. For example, there may be medical coverage in an umbrella policy, disability policy, homeowner's policy and even policies that come with a credit card. If you have difficulty reading these contracts, ask a lawyer to review them for you.

There may also be a state pool for uninsured drivers. Check with your state's department of insurance. (To locate your department of insurance, click here offsite link.).

If The Injury Is Work Related

Workers’ Compensation Insurance in all states provides reimbursement for expenses for injuries that are work related.  To learn about Workers' Compensation Insurance, click here.

If You Are Injured Due To Someone's Fault Other Than In An Automobile Or Related To Work

You may be able to sue whoever is legally responsible for the injury. It generally does not cost you any out-of-pocket cash to hire a lawyer for this type of lawsuit because the general rule is that lawyers who specialize in personal injury cases work on a "contingency basis." They do not get paid unless and until you win your case. 

If you still need money, see: How To Raise Money When You Need It


  • If you need emergency care, hospital emergency rooms must treat you whether you can afford to pay or not.
  • To learn how to get medical care without insurance, click here.

How To Obtain Health Care For A Serious Condition Other Than HIV or Cancer

To obtain treatment for cancer without health insurance, consider the following. As you review the available resources, please keep in mind:


  • Hospitals with federal funding must provide a limited amount of free or low cost health care becuase of the Hill-Burton Act. For information about the act and how to obtain treatment under the Act, click here
  • Many hospitals have their ownor private funds to pay for treament for people who do not have insurance.  Call the finance department of local hospitals. 
  • Speak with a knowledgeable social worker who may know about available programs..

Non-profit Organizations  

  • A number of organizations provide financial support for the costs of direct medical care and related expenses. For example, some organizations offer money to families who cannot pay their bills. Some organizations provide free transportation to and from treatment. Others offer "lending libraries" of wigs, hospital beds, wheelchairs and related products.
  • The type and amount of financial assistance available varies from community to community. Many of these services are not advertised, but are available for the asking. Your oncologist or social worker can help provide local information.
  • Search on the internet for your health condition plus the name of your locat area and state.

Federally-funded health centers (also known as HRSA Health Centers)  

  • There are hundreds of Federally funded health centers around the country that provide medical care regardless of your ability to pay. They are often run by the government's Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Such centers are often referred to as HRSA Health Centers.
  • If you have no health insurance, you pay what you can afford, based on your income.
  • To locate a Federally Funded Health Center, go to: offsite link

Clinical Trials

  • You may get free care if your health condition is being studied somewhere by joining a clinical trial that studies new drugs and treatments or new uses of existing drugs and treatments. 
  • The doctors in charge of clinical trials are usually top in their field. 
  • Generally basic treatment is free. There may still be extra costs you have to incur.  


Clinical Trials and the Uninsured

Sponsors of clinical trials pay for the treatment. However, there are frequently costs associated with the trial that participants rather than the sponsor have to pay for.  For instance, the cost of ongoing blood work.

If money is an issue, tell the sponsor about your financial situation and ask if it can cover costs that a participant normally has to pay. The sponsor may pay part or all of the expense.

For money that you have to pay, we have information about sources of money to help pay for a clinical trial. See: How To Raise Money When You Need It.

Note that some clinical trials will not enroll people in the trial if there is no health insurance to pay these costs.One way to obtain insurance is to qualify for Medicaid. To learn about eligiblity and what you can do to qualify, click here. Before applying, ask if the sponsor will help. Sponsors frequently help in order to allow people to participate.

  • For information about clinical trials, including questions to ask before joining, click here.
  • For information about how to obtain health insurance despite your health history, click here.