How to Avoid Using Payday Loans for Healthcare Emergencies

Inside Subprime: Jan 07, 2018

By Lindsay Frankel

Unexpected healthcare expenses can be some of the most costly, especially for the 8.8 percent of Americans who are uninsured. Health insurance doesn’t necessarily make healthcare affordable, either; nearly one-fifth of Americans can’t afford access to a needed medical service. This leads 1 in 10 adults to delay medical care.

When costly services can’t be avoided any longer, most insured Americans blow through their savings in order to pay their medical bills, and many end up going into debt. While most use credit cards or personal loans to deal with healthcare costs, these options are often inaccessible to borrowers with bad credit. As a result, 3.8 percent of adults turn to payday loans to cover medical emergencies.

With short terms and interest rates that soar into the triple digits, payday loans are a risky choice for borrowers already struggling to make ends meet. If you can’t afford medical care, consider payday loans a last resort, and explore all other options before visiting a payday lender.

Apply for government assistance

If you are currently uninsured, the first step is to check your eligibility for your state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is a federal-state program that reduces or eliminates the cost of healthcare coverage and copays for qualifying low-income families. Some states have adopted expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to cover all residents under certain income levels. And in most states, children are covered to higher income levels than adults. Applying for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can help to lower your household’s total medical costs.

Visit a local free health clinic

If you need medical care right away and don’t have health insurance, look for a free or sliding scale health clinic in your area. Many clinics provide free healthcare for those who are low-income, uninsured, or ineligible for Medicaid. Others charge fees that are dependent on the patient’s income.

Ask for help

It can be difficult to admit you’re in a financial bind, but getting help from friends and family means you won’t be charged steep interest rates. Some employers may also be willing to offer an interest-free advance, especially in the case of a healthcare emergency.

Take out a lower-cost loan

If you are ineligible for assistance and can’t afford medical care, or if you are dealing with medical debt already, borrowing money may be unavoidable. Still, you should exhaust all other options before visiting a payday lender. Talk to banks and credit unions to see if you qualify for a lower-cost loan, or try applying for a credit card. If you have bad credit or lack established credit history, considering taking out an installent loan. With longer terms and lower interest rates, these loans are easier to manage than payday loans. Making your payments on time will also improve your credit score, which will give you access to less expensive methods of borrowing in the future.

For more information and resources specific to your state, check out our State Financial Resource Guides.

For more information on payday loans, scams, and cash advances and check out our state financial guides including California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and more.