Life Without Health Insurance: Restaurant Owner, Cancer Survivor Finds Alternatives

“It was a no brainer,” says Marcos Nunez.

As a restaurant owner and two-time cancer survivor, Nunez took a tip from one of his regular customers: telehealth.

“I do it on my computer at home. For the simple fact that it's a lot nicer to relax and see him on the big screen. I could do it here at the restaurant if I needed to. It is very, very convenient.”

Between the pace of the restaurant industry and the current healthcare market, he says prioritizing health is challenging.

Nunez does not have health insurance.

He says most of his employees would rather pay out of pocket instead of paying high premiums and high deductibles. While he does not want a hand out, he says the prices need to be reasonable, “these days where health insurance is mandatory, it's cheaper to pay the penalties.”

In 2016 Emergency Department (ED) physician David Circle started a Carolina Online Health, a telehealth practice, with other local ER doctors to improve access to care for patients outside of the Emergency Room.

Dr. Circle says it is a common thread for ED physicians to see patients in the ED that do not need to be there. But for his telehealth patients, they are most thankful for the transparency in costs, which they are able to provide by not accepting insurance.

“It adds complexity and costs and doesn't really add any value. It's really put up a barrier between myself as a physician and my patients, because utilizing insurance patients don't have the ability of right anymore to come see a doctor in the way they see fit,” says Dr. Circle, “we are trying to reach people directly.”