8.5 million ways healthcare consumers are beating the system

How they cut costs and save money

We are living in a world where for many, a high-deductible health insurance plan is the most affordable option. Sure, it’s cheaper up front, but there’s an expensive trade-off. When their health plummets, they’re going to pay a lot more out-of-pocket costs before their insurance kicks in. These high-deductible plans can put quite the financial burden on patients, pushing them to seek alternative ways to cut costs. What are these alternatives, you ask?  Surprisingly or unsurprisingly enough, there are more than 8.5 million Google results for “clever ways to get around health insurance deductibles.” This obviously sparked our interest, so we’ve decided to take it upon ourselves to gather a list of the many clever ways that patients have avoided high deductible health insurance payments. We even wrote a white paper about why it’s important to market affordable healthcare, since, well, it might help.

Here’s what we found:

Using alternatives to healthcare services

Third Party Ambulances

Consumers are using public transportation services like Uber and Lyft to transport them to the hospital, instead of using an ambulance, which could rack up costs into the thousands. There’s even a company that’s trying to build a service that acts like Uber, but it sends an ambulance instead.

Cheaper options

There are usually multiple ways to treat a health issue, some more expensive than others. Finding out what the cheapest treatment option allows patients to cut costs and still get treated.


Telemedicine is a quick and convenient way to reduce medical costs and provide over-the-phone healthcare consultations.

Alternative therapies

Medical treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic medicine can be cheaper alternatives to traditional therapies. These therapies don’t rely on prescription drugs to heal, instead, they focus on techniques related to body movement, internal energies and stimulation.

Using alternative funding sources

Gap plans

When you can’t afford your out-of-pocket medical expenses, Gap Plans are used to cover these costs.


With job-based health insurance, you might be able to take advantage of a flexible spending account — a special tax advantage savings account for health care.

Taking money out of retirement

Borrowing from your future, to pay for your present medical care. This hurts, but it could be the only option.

Selling their stuff


Taking on credit card debt

When times get tough, charging medical expenses to your credit card could be your best bet.

Loan sharks

Mingling with loan sharks is never a good idea, they’re illegal, dangerous, and have insane interest rates. But this could be someone’s only option, especially if they’re facing a life threatening illness or injury and need treatment ASAP.

PayDay loans

A small amount of cash borrowed at a high-interest rate, which is expected to be paid back when the borrower receives their next paycheck. Just like loan sharks, this isn’t a great idea especially if you have a low income, but it could be the only way out for some.

Charity Care

Charity care is free medical care for patients who are unable to pay their medical bills and meet certain criteria. Hospitals review the patient’s income, assets, and insurance (if any) before offering free services. This is made possible by government reimbursement, most of which is provided through Medicare and Medicaid.

Medical debt

The Kaiser report finds that 70 percent of people with medical debt are insured and more than half (54%) have employer-sponsored coverage.


Maybe you’ll get lucky at the black jack table?

Borrowing money from friends and family

‘nuff said.


Medical expenses have become so expensive that they are the single largest crowdfunding category. From surgery costs to cancer treatments, patients have resorted to community wide donation initiatives.


Negotiating with doctors

Patients are putting their negotiation skills to the test by being more assertive with their healthcare providers. With the proper research and understanding of what options are out there, they can negotiate a price with their doctors.

Haggling at the moment of purchase (same way you would when buying a car)

Sure, medical care is essential for your health, but it’s also a business. Each appointment or surgery is a sales transaction and people aren’t afraid to haggle prices.

Finding Loopholes

Buy it. Change it. Use it. Drop it.

There’s a lot of wiggle room within Obamacare. Say you purchased an affordable plan but break your leg and now this plan won’t be able to cover treatment costs. You could potentially put off the treatment and at open enrollment, change to a plan that will cover treatment expenses. Once you received the treatment, you could simply drop the plan.

Being more cost conscious

If you haven’t studied your insurance plan from top to bottom, then you’re doing it wrong and potentially paying more than necessary. Knowing what your plan covers, where your insurance is accepted, and asking for generic medications instead of brand name medications, etc. are all cost cutting solutions.

Traveling to free medical clinics

In some instances, the most affordable option for medical treatment is visiting/traveling to free medical clinics. These clinics offer free services to patients who are uninsured. Though, these free clinics usually have limited accessibility — open one or two days a week and require an appointment.

Hospitals are essentially becoming banks

Patients are refusing to pay medical bills, forcing hospitals to change their billing strategies to combat debt. They’re sending patients with overdue balances to collection agencies and staying ahead of the game by collecting payments before they receive care.

Tobacco use & Obamacare

A tobacco user can be charged up to 50% more for health insurance than a non-tobacco user, which can amount to a significantly larger premium. “Since there is no medical underwriting under Obamacare, there is no way of knowing whether or not someone uses tobacco, making it very simple for people to lie about this.”

Skipping care

Waiting for the right moment

For some, seeking treatment can’t always happen right away. In one particular instance, a patient decided that instead of receiving twice weekly allergy shots and paying out of pocket for them, he would wait until his child was born. He knew full well that he and his wife would rack up fees for their child’s birth and meet their deductible, allowing him to receive these allergy shots for free.

The lure of a cheap healthcare plan

Young people are able to buy cheap, subsidized healthcare plans, but never end up using them because of high deductibles. Therefore, they put off care, completely.

Going without tests, treatments and prescriptions

Whether they’re not refilling prescriptions or missing annual appointments, people are avoiding healthcare treatment, altogether.

Shopping around

Patient Advocates / Billing Assistants

Patient Advocates “provide guidance on dealing with doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.” If you’re confused by a bill or need help communicating with said parties. Patient advocates will handle “negotiations and work to find satisfactory billing agreements.”

Seeking cheaper medical treatment outside of the US

“Between 600,000 and 800,000 U.S. consumers sought healthcare services outside of the United States in 2012. That number grew to an estimated 900,000 people in 2013, according to PBB.”

Avoiding US Hospitals at all costs

Most out of country surgeries cost between 50% and 90% less than what the same surgery would cost in the U.S., pushing those in need of costly medical procedures to seek out of country medical attention.

To learn more about this topic, download our white paper “6 Reasons to Market Affordable Healthcare.