The Tonic Guide to Healthcare

A comprehensive, easy-to-follow FAQ about getting medical care, whether you have good insurance, bad insurance, or no insurance at all.

by Tonic Editors
Nov 19 2018, 7:45pm

Vice Media

People are confused about how to choose the health insurance they need, how to use the insurance they have, and how to navigate the medical system if they don't have insurance at all. Our healthcare guides provide some much-needed answers.

We zeroed in on seven specific life circumstances that can be demanding and confusing when it comes to accessing and paying for medical care. They are: if you're a college student, if you have a mental health issue, if you want birth control, if you're pregnant, if you need an abortion, if you're trans or non-binary, or if you have an opioid addiction. (Got your own healthcare quandary? Email us with questions and requests at

Each guide is available as a PDF so you can save it on your phone, email it to your sister, or print it out and take notes while you're on the phone with your insurance company. Find the master document here, and individual PDFs in each of the stories below.

Glossary of health insurance terms

First up, though, is a glossary of 24 health insurance terms from copay to single-payer healthcare. It's a good way to get the lay of the land before reading any of our guides.

Guide to healthcare if you have a mental health issue

Lots of different types of providers offer therapy for mental health. This story explains your options, as well as how insurance coverage of therapy works and how to find therapists who offer lower-cost sessions.

Guide to healthcare if you're a college student

This guide for college students explains the pros and cons between staying on your parents' insurance or getting one of the plans that schools offer. Also: why you still need insurance even if you pay the student health fee.

Guide to healthcare if you're on birth control (or want to be)

All FDA-approved methods of birth control for women are supposed to cost nothing out of pocket if you have insurance, but it doesn't always work that way in practice. Here's what you need to know about the various loopholes, plus how to get low- or no-cost contraception without insurance.

Guide to healthcare if you're pregnant

Having a baby is expensive. This guide breaks down what health insurance is supposed to cover if you're pregnant and what questions you should ask so you don't get any surprise bills.

Guide to healthcare if you need an abortion

Abortion is healthcare, and it should theoretically be covered by health insurance, but there are federal and state laws that limit insurance coverage for some people. Here's an explanation of those rules, and other barriers you might face, like mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds.

Guide to healthcare if you're trans or gender non-binary

If you're interested in getting therapy, hormones, or surgery to treat gender dysphoria, know that health plans should cover these services even though they might initially deny them. Here's a rundown of how to push back—as well as how to find doctors and what to expect.

Guide to healthcare if you have an opioid addition

This guide explains the pros and cons of treating opioid addiction in inpatient rehab or with medications, therapy, and other support—and how health insurance treats these options.

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mental health
birth control
LGBTQ health