I Don’t Have Insurance, But Have Medical Bills To Pay!

You’re young. You’re healthy. And then out of nowhere, you’re faced with a medical emergency, spend some time in the hospital, and are now forced with astronomical medical bills to pay.


What Now?

First things first: don’t get discouraged. It would be easy to stash away your medical bills in a drawer or sit them far back on a shelf to collect dust, but the fact is that these bills won’t disappear. And most importantly, you are much, much more likely to receive financial assistance if you work with the provider before the bill is sent to a collection agency. Luckily, there are many steps that you can take to help your situation and potentially even lower your outstanding bills!

It’s important to keep in mind that hospitals are well aware that paying medical bills without insurance can be extremely difficult, so generally they will work with you to find a reasonable way to help you pay off your debt, and can even help lower the overall amount that you owe.Of course, all of these great things can’t happen if you don’t ask. This is where a letter of hardship can help save the day.

If you genuinely have no means to pay the medical bills that you now owe, it would be in your best interest to write a letter to the provider letting them know of your situation and your inability to pay.

Be sure to include the fact that you are an international student, unfamiliar with the US healthcare system, and any additional information that could help your case.

Depending on the amount owed and your personal situation, a provider may write off a good portion, specific services, or even your entire bill! If you don’t receive a response to your letter within a few weeks, be sure to follow-up with a phone call to reconfirm your situation. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee, but it’s worth your time to try!

Tip: At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that hospitals are still businesses and they want to be paid for their services – even if it’s not the whole amount that is owed.

This step can be time-consuming, but it’s worth every moment. It’s especially important to check your bills if you spent a long period in the hospital or had a complicated procedure, as it is possible that a portion of the bill that you’ve received isn’t right. The most common errors tend to be that you’ve been billed for services or medications that you didn’t actually receive. Take into consideration the time that you stayed in the hospital as well. Sometimes if you’ve checked out in the morning you could have been charged for a full day, adding thousands of dollars to your bill.

Tip: According to the Medical Billing Advocates of America, eight in 10 hospital bills include mistakes.

It’s important to note that the US healthcare system is set up for individuals to have health insurance. Without insurance, you will be paying a substantial amount more for the medical treatment that you receive, compared to someone who does have insurance and receives deep in-network discounts. If a letter of distress to the provider doesn’t lower your bill enough, or at all, the next step is to try to negotiate.

As mentioned before, providers want to get paid – even if they don’t receive as much as they’ve billed you for, so you likely have some room to negotiate at least a small portion of the amount that you owe. In order to do so, it’s important that you are armed with information to help your cause. Check nearby hospitals to discern how much they would have charged for the procedure that you had. If the provider that you visited is charging grossly more, this could be a good negotiating point!

Tip: You can get information on how much providers charge for given treatments from a variety of websites, including  Clear Health Cost and Healthcare Blue Book.

Regardless if you were able to negotiate a lower overall balance or not, providers know that a huge medical bill broken down into small, manageable payments is much more likely to be paid off, so call the provider and ask if they can set up an interest-free payment plan. It’s important to speak to the right person and let them know of your situation, and that you’re trying to pay off your debt but lack the income to do so right away.

Tip: Keep in mind that someone who is simply sympathetic to your situation can’t help you – be sure to speak to someone higher up in the billing department directly for the most assistance.

The bottom line is that medical emergencies are never planned, but are always costly.  Luckily for you, there are countless resources available to help you negotiate and even lower your bill, as well as set up payment plans.  Don’t let your bills overwhelm you. As dim as the situation may seem, you can work your way out of it!

Avoid these inconvenient situations by purchasing a health insurance plan in advance, we offer different options to meet your needs. 

Check our student health insurance plan options:

Student Health Isnruance

Student Health Insurance

The Student Secure plan provides international student health insurance in the USA and around the world, offering 4 plan levels; Smart, Budget, Select, and Elite. With comprehensive benefits and simple monthly payment options.

The Student Health Advantage provides international student health insurance to both international and study abroad students who are studying outside of their residence country. The plan is available for as little as one month, and as long as you purchase 3 months of coverage initially, the plan can be extended for up to 12 months and then renewed for up to 5 years in total.

You can always contact us if you are not sure of which is the right insurance plan for you.

Posted by Sutherland Beever

Sutherland joined the team in early 2014 after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from the University of North Florida. She has had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe, which instilled an unwavering passion of international travel. This, combined with her strong interest in Marketing, led her to join the Envisage team.

35 thoughts on “I Don’t Have Insurance, But Have Medical Bills To Pay!”

Philomina Nsowaa says:

Is this insurance only activated in USA or all-over the world and how can one access it? Thank you.

Leah Hammond says:

Hi Philomina,

Thank you for visiting our blog! Our insurance plans are designed to cover students and travelers outside of their home country, so it will offer coverage in the United States and around the world. I will send you an email to get more information so we can suggest the best insurance plan for you.

Have a great weekend!

Chris says:

Hey, can i get to know your student-insurance providers? thanks

Hello Chris,

Thanks for your comment! Depending on the plan that you choose, we can help you find providers near you. I have sent you an email with more information.

Have a great weekend!

Ankit says:


I am an international student on my OPT. I had a different health insurance but my health insurance had expired 2 days before I got injured. I made sure to renew the insurance before I went to the hospital. Unfortunately, the new insurance coverage was going to be effective from the next day. I had to get a couple of surgeries for a rare medical condition. Now the insurance company is denying the claims saying that the injury/accident did not happen when I had the insurance and instead happened during lapse of coverage. Is the insurance company allowed to deny the claim? What are my options now? The medical bills are really high and I won’t be able to pay them off.


Hello Ankit,

Thanks for your comment and I’m sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, we are not able to help you with your question since we don’t know how your insurance works. Your questions are better directed to them. Generally, claims will be approved or denied by your insurance based on your coverage. Read through your policy documents and you may be able to find some answers there. You may also contact the hospital and explain your situation to them.

We wish you luck! Have a great day!

Louis Serrano says:

If I have an old medical bill, but I just got insurance right after, Would my health insurance pay for my medical bill?

Hello Louis,

Thanks for your blog comment. Your question is better directed to your insurance company. Generally, insurances will only cover conditions that happen after the effective start date of your policy but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to confirm that with yours.

Have a great day!

Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman says:

I am currently in OPT and looking for health insurance in USA. I am confused which company should i deal with. I am wondering why we have to pay all the insurance amount full at a time. Is there any option so that i can make payment in 2-3 installment. I am looking for job so i cant afford that muchmoney now. If you can help me it would be fine.

Leah Hammond says:

Hi Mohammad,

Thank you for visiting our blog!

The Student Secure is an excellent plan option for international students studying inside the USA. You are eligible for this plan during your OPT period, as long as you maintain a valid F1 visa. The plan comes in four levels Smart, Budget, Select and Elite and offers inpatient and outpatient medical coverage up to $200,000 (smart), $250,000 (budget), $300,000 (select) or $500,000 (elite).

*The plan also includes benefits such as:*
* Hospitalizations and doctors visits
* Prescription medications
* Mental health
* Emergency medical evacuation/ repatriation
* Pre-existing conditions (acute onset only with the smart level)
* Maternity and Sports Coverage (budget, select and elite plan only)
* Personal Liability (elite plan only)

It is available with a daily or monthly rate, and monthly payment options – allowing you the flexibility to purchase the coverage you need.

*For students inside the US, aged 25-30, the pricing is as follows:*
* Smart – $2.10 per day or $64 a month
* Budget – $2.47 per day or $75 a month
* Select – $6.15 per day or $187 a month
* Elite – $8.61 per day or $262 a month

Please also note, there is an additional $5 monthly administrative fee added if you choose to pay your plan monthly.

You can apply directly online through our website, and receive instant confirmation by email at:

Please let us know if you have any questions or need further help.

Olamide Akinboye says:

Pregnant and needs insurance

Hi Olamide,

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, if you are already pregnant, none of our plans will cover your existing pregnancy. However the Atlas Travel plan will offer limited benefits for complications of pregnancy.

I have sent you more information about this plan to your email.

Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Olamide Akinboye says:

I want to a quote

Anton says:

If a student does not have insurance is there a funding source such as a grant that will pay Physicians services provided to International Students? Can Physicians get a tax break by offering care free to International students.

Hello Anton,

Thanks for your blog comment! In the US, there is no government assistance or universal healthcare program if you have medical bills. You will be responsible for your medical care and this is why it is important to have a health insurance plan with sufficient coverage. Also, many schools have a Student Health Center that offer low cost or even free physical exams for their students but it varies. We would recommend checking with your school.

For your second question, unfortunately, we can only assist you with your health insurance needs. For tax related questions, please contact a tax expert.

If you have any other questions, please let us know!

Kevin says:

I didn’t have insurance coverage all of 2016 because my job didn’t offer it and I couldn’t afford it on the side. Something occurred where I had to go to the hospital and got 9 stiches to my ear, had a cat scan done and other test’s that summoned up to a cost of $9,500. Now that I have insurance, is there a way someone can help me lower that cost?

Hi Kevin,

Unfortunately, if you did not have insurance at the time of your hospital visit, then this would be something you would need to pay out of pocket. This blog has great tips in the event that you do have to pay if you did not have insurance or a covered visit. Check nearby hospitals to discern how much they would have charged for the procedure that you had. If the provider that you visited is charging grossly more, this could be a good negotiating point! You can get information on how much providers charge for given treatments from a variety of websites, including  Clear Health Cost and  Healthcare Blue Book.

We wish you the best of luck!

vamp says:

I had an accident last month.I got a bill of 3000.
Can i pay my old bills to get paid if i take insurance now.If yes insurance provides it,I am on OPT

Hi Vamp,

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, many insurance plans will not pay for medical bills for accidents that have occurred prior to having insurance. I apologize for the inconvenience. I would recommend talking to the hospital and seeing if you can negotiate a payment plan for your bills.

Best of luck!

Silvia C. says:

I would like an advice on my issue. I received a bill for a doctor from Mount Sinai Hospital, I wasn’t supposed to receive it because I was having insurance but they changed my plan at the time I was visiting that doctor and I didn’t know about it, so I didn’t take any actions because I thought that they would bill me again later when I renewed my membership. So I don’t know what to do cause they didn’t bill the insurance and I got a Final Notice.

Hi Silvia,

Thanks for your comment. I would recommend contacting your insurance company and asking them about the coverage you have. If your insurance was active during your visit to the doctor, they will be able to assist you with billing questions. You can also contact the hospital billing department and ask them for an extension while you contact your insurance company.

Best of luck!

Xin says:

Hi! I just found this post you wrote a year ago. I am desperate. I came to US as a tourist vising my girl friend in Minneapolis during the last holidays without an insurance effective in US. On January 1, the kidney stones I never knew exist decided to move down and caused a pain that sent me to a local hospital. After some blood and urine test, and an ultrasound exam, I was told to buy pain killers and let the kidney stones to release by themselves. A month later my gf (now exgf) received a medical bill of 2300 USD (with a 50% non-insurance discount). Since I spent my whole year’s saving on the trip during holidays, I don’t have any money left. So I called HealthEast whose number is on the bill to see if I can have a discount. Instead of working out a solution with me, their accounting supervisor decided I am not supposed to have that 50% discount and need to pay the full price of 4551 USD within a month. I even filled a complaint form at MN attorney general office’s website, but nothing happens. I am not familiar with American medical system. But I do want to pay within my ability for the diagnosis I got. Is there anything else I can do?

Hi Xin,

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, if you didn’t have adequate medical insurance at the time of your visit, you will be responsible for the medical bill, even if you weren’t aware of your medical condition. I would recommend contacting the hospital again, as it is completely up to them how they wish to charge for services provided to you. It is possible that you can set up a payment plan with them.

In the US, there is no universal healthcare or government assistance to pay for medical bills. This is why it is important to have a travel medical insurance.

Best of luck!

Sharon says:

is there anywhere i can go to in BC Canada to see if i’m able to get assistance for my fathers emergency medical bill, hi cancelled his insurance about 2/3 weeks prior, while attempting to see up another insurance. unfortunately this wasn’t set up in time and he was rushed to hospital where he almost died. i really need help….

Hi Sharon,

Thank you for your comment and we hope that your father is feeling better. We apologize for the inconvenience, but unfortunately, many insurance plans will not pay for medical bills for accidents that have occurred prior to having insurance. I would recommend talking to the hospital and seeing if you can negotiate a payment plan for your bills. You should contact your father’s provider directly to confirm if you would have any coverage for an emergency reunion or medical evacuation.

We wish you the best of luck.

kristine hermosa says:

Hi i really have question, My dad came here in United States for vacation last year, on hes vacation he got really sick, i took him to 2 different hospital, without insurance, and i recieve a lot of bills from hospital, and my question is, he wanted to come and visit here again, is he can able to come back again in United States for tourist? even he didnt paid all his bill yet?

Thank you

Hello Kristine,

Thanks for your message. Unfortunately, we can only assist you with your health insurance needs. I would recommend that you contact an immigration attorney with your questions as this may affect your father’s entrance to the US. Your father is still responsible for those bills and he should pay them as soon as possible. He can contact the hospital and see if they can negotiate a payment plan so his bills are not sent to collections.

Best of luck!

Angelita Rivera says:

Is there insurance plan for an international student 30-35 yrs old?

Hi Angelita,

Yes, we have many plans for international students of any age. I would recommend either our Student Secure or Atlas Travel plan. I have sent you more information about our plans to your email.

Have a nice day!

Radja says:


Im in canada as an international student with insurance form a private company. I need to go to the hospital but i have no money with me to pay the bill directly as soon as i finish the appointment. Can i pay the bill later on in installments? Thanks you!

Hi Radja,

Thanks for your comment. If you have insurance, it would be best to show your insurance ID card when you go to the hospital. The hospital may be able to bill your insurance so you don’t have to pay for treatment out of pocket. Alternatively, if you don’t have the money to pay upfront, you can also let them know and ask if they will bill you later. It’s up to the hospital ultimately, but I hope they’re able to work with you. Best of luck!

Rahul says:

Hello I do have international insurance I’m on OPT student.
I do have an insurance but it’s not covering much medical bills are all most 50000 usd I need to pay 30/40 percent from my pockets .Can you please suggest me what can I do.help me out please.thank you

Hello Rahul,

Thanks for your blog comment. We have followed up with more information about your policy via email.

Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Luis Ortega says:

Hey! Thank you so much for having a response post! I’m worried because I blacked out as a 18 year old at a party and woke up in the hospital. This was about a 2 years ago now. I’m 20 now, I want to apply for a credit card. I’m worried that collection agencies are waiting for me to sign up to throw it all on my face and give me bad credit. I was able to get Charity Care from the hospital because of how much and me not having insurance and only claiming for myself. I stopped getting bills and calls a while back. So I don’t know if they closed the case or like I said waiting on me to start up a credit card. I would fight against it but like I said it’s been two years already, and they made me sign papers without my glasses and forced me into the hospital even when I woke up scared and told them I cannot afford this. I would like to know the best plan for all this. Thank you so much 🙁

Hello Luis,

Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, we would not have a plan that can cover existing medical bills. We recommend that you contact the hospital to verify any outstanding bills.

We apologize for the inconveniences and wish you the best of luck.

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