Uninsured and Facing an Emergency? Know Your Rights!

Being uninsured doesn’t mean you’re out of luck during an emergency. You have the right to care if you meet the federal guidelines of what counts as an emergency. 

What qualifies as an emergency?

An emergency is any situation that is:

  • Severe or life-threatening
  • Causes serious impairment to your bodily functions or organs
  • Involves imminent childbirth for a pregnant woman

Hospitals must treat you in an emergency

If you have a serious medical problem, hospitals must treat you regardless of whether you have insurance. This includes situations that meet the definition of an emergency.

Not all visits will qualify as an emergency

Some situations may not be considered true emergencies, such as:

  • Going to the ER for non-life-threatening care
  • Visiting an urgent care for non-emergency issues
  • Routine doctor visits like prenatal care, checkups, or follow-ups
  • Minor issues like the flu, colds, rashes, etc.

In these cases, the hospital may choose to transfer or discharge you once your immediate condition is stabilized.

You’ll still have to pay for non-emergency care

Even if you receive treatment without insurance, you will be responsible for the full cost of the visit. However, you can ask about charity care options or payment plans to help make it more affordable. Learn more about what options might be available to you here (Medical Expenses: Healthcare Services Tip Sheet – Education Resource Library (patientadvocate.org))

Consider applying for Medicaid or other coverage

If you’re uninsured, look into whether you qualify for Medicaid or coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov The Marketplace can help ensure you have access to affordable healthcare and you may even qualify for cost-savings on your monthly premiums and other costs like co-pays and deductibles.

For more information on accessing care without insurance, visit our Education Resource Library or check out this tip sheet- Accessing Care Without Health Insurance.


More Expert Articles From PAF