A heart attack is a serious medical emergency that can lead to significant life changes. Having a heart attack in the United States without insurance coverage can cost more than the annual salary of most Americans.

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A heart attack is a major medical event that usually requires significant treatment. For individuals in the United States with no health insurance, it can be very expensive.

According to a 2017 study, the median cost of hospital care following a heart attack was $53,384 for uninsured patients. Costs for medical care have risen along with inflation over the past several years, and the 2023 average is likely even higher.

A heart attack is a serious medical emergency. After a heart attack occurs, heart tissue dies. Every minute that passes causes more damage to your heart. That’s why it’s so important to get urgent medical care by contacting 911 or local emergency services.

Treatment for a heart attack may include:

You have the right to receive emergency medical care in the United States regardless of your ability to pay or your insurance status.

The federal government considers a heart attack a medical emergency. This means that, even if you don’t have insurance, you can go to an emergency room for treatment. You cannot be turned away.

Receiving a medical bill for heart attack treatment can be stressful and overwhelming, but you have options. Even without insurance, there might be ways to lower your costs. It can help to:

  • Ask about financial assistance programs: Many hospitals and healthcare systems have patient financial assistance programs. The billing department will let you know what your options are. Sometimes, you might even be able to apply online.
  • Ask about negotiating the price: In many cases, you might be able to negotiate a lower price. This price might be the price billed to insurance companies or simply a lower lump sum rate offered by you. You can research rates in your area online to see what might be accepted.
  • See if you qualify for Medicaid: Unlike other health insurance plans, you can enroll in Medicaid at any time of the year. If you qualify, Medicaid may also pay for 3 months of past medical expenses. Eligibility for Medicaid and specific rules vary by state.
  • Consider a medical loan or credit product: Medical loans and credit products can help you pay off medical debt. However, it’s important to be careful with this option. Some of these products have high interest rates that can leave you with even greater financial difficulty.

Sometimes, bankruptcy is an option for people who face overwhelming debt. Bankruptcy is a legal procedure designed to give people who can’t pay their debts a clean slate. It wipes out debt. This is called “discharge,” and it means that a person is no longer legally obligated to pay back-owed bills. For many people, bankruptcy is a way to get a second chance after a major financial setback, such as medical debt.

However, there are some downsides to declaring bankruptcy. One of the largest negatives is that bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years after your file. This can make it difficult to secure credit cards, loans, mortgages, car insurance, life insurance, apartment rentals, and other products that look into your financial history before approval. This impact is typically greatest in the first few years after filing and fades with time.

Disparities in health insurance and healthcare in the United States

According to the Healthy People 2030 initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 1 in 10 Americans don’t have health insurance. Individuals without health insurance are less likely to have a primary care doctor or access to affordable healthcare services and medications.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to health insurance and healthcare for Americans, but data show that many people are still without coverage.

A lack of insurance coverage disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic populations. In 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reported health insurance coverage by race and ethnicity. They found that Hispanic or Latino people had among the highest uninsured rate in the nation at 17.7% and that non-Hispanic Black people had an uninsured rate of 9.6%. White non-Hispanic people had the lowest uninsured rate at 5.7%.

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You can learn more about heart attacks and insurance coverage by reading the answers to common questions.

Can I get health insurance if I’ve had a heart attack?

Yes. The ACA made it possible for Americans with preexisting conditions to get health insurance coverage. This means you can have health insurance if you’ve had a heart attack.

How can I prevent another heart attack?

A doctor might prescribe medications or a cardiac rehabilitation program to help you prevent another heart attack. You can also take steps such as:

How much do medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol cost without insurance?

The exact cost will depend on the medications a doctor prescribes, but many blood pressure and cholesterol medications have generic forms available. You can use websites such as GoodRx or SingleCare to find the lowest prices.

It’s important to seek urgent medical care following a heart attack. A heart attack is an emergency, and a hospital can’t refuse to treat you, even if you’re uninsured. However, you’ll still be responsible for the cost of your care.

You can take steps such as looking into patient discount programs, asking about negotiating a lower price, or applying for Medicaid to help reduce your costs. If you can’t pay your medical debts, declaring bankruptcy might be an option.