With the cost of traditional health insurance plans rising rapidly out of the financial reach of many Americans, people are diligently seeking alternatives that provide some sort of assistance with potential medical bills without bankrupting them or busting their monthly budgets. While it may appear more and more difficult to manage health care costs, there are indeed a number of viable alternatives to traditional health insurance. Each individual has to figure out the one that may be most well suited to his personal health care needs and budget.

The following are five of the most popular options for alternative health care coverage. They vary in cost and in how and to what extent they provide health care cost assistance.

1) Get a Primary Care "Membership"

One interesting alternative is medical practices or individual primary care physicians offering services based on a flat monthly fee, rather like a gym membership. For a monthly fee, individuals or families receive virtually unlimited routine medical care, including doctor visits, blood tests and pediatric care, essentially all the usual services provided by a primary care physician. No sort of co-pay is required. Of course, such an arrangement does not cover surgery, hospital stays or major injury treatment. To provide for such unforeseen catastrophic health care coverage, individuals can supplement their primary care "membership" with a high-deductible, relatively low-premium health insurance policy that is essentially designed only to cover catastrophic illness or injury.

2) Join a Medical Cost-Sharing Program

Another increasingly popular option exists in the form of medical cost-sharing programs such as Medi-Share. Medical cost-sharing programs are set up so members, who pay monthly fees much like insurance premiums, pool their resources and share each others' medical costs as they arise. In place of a deductible, there is an "incident fee" for each medical event, which resembles a co-pay, that a member must first cover, after which the remainder of her incurred medical costs related to that illness or event are covered by the pooled fees paid by other members of the program. These programs often negotiate discounts with primary care physicians and medical facilities such as hospitals to keep costs down. One attraction of cost-sharing programs is the monthly fees typically amount to less than what an individual or family would pay for traditional health insurance while still offering essentially the same level of reimbursement coverage of medical costs. Many of the available cost-sharing programs are from faith-based organizations that may exclude some costs, such as abortion or birth control, but other than such exceptions, the programs effectively function much like a regular insurance policy at a lower overall cost.

3) Open a Health Savings Account

A health savings account (HSA) offers a tax-advantaged way of covering most ordinary medical expenses, such as doctor visits and medications, even including over-the-counter medications. Like the primary care monthly fee programs mentioned above, they are usually combined with high-deductible insurance coverage for catastrophic illness or injury. HSAs are available through many employers but may also be set up by individuals. Payments made into an HSA are pretax deductions, and there is no tax penalty for spending or withdrawing money from the HSA account as long as the money is used to cover medical expenses. The IRS limits maximum contributions to an HSA account. The annual limits as of 2016 are $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family.

4) Get a Medical Services Discount Card

For those who prefer to operate on a "cash only" basis for medical costs and do not mind paying the tax penalty incurred under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for not having insurance, there are a variety of medical discount cards available. Some discount cards can be used for physician or hospital services, others for prescriptions and some for both. Discounts offered with the use of the cards can be substantial, up to 80% or more. Some cards require a one-time membership fee, others a membership fee plus a small monthly fee, and still others are available completely free. There are typically restrictions on where the discount cards can be used, similar to those for a health care plan that requires using doctors within a specified network. One notable advantage of discount card plans is they can often be used for major dental services for which coverage under traditional health insurance policies is usually either severely restricted or very expensive. Discount cards can also be used in combination with high-deductible, catastrophic illness or injury insurance coverage.

5) Get a High-Deductible Policy

A good option for younger adults in generally good health, who do not expect to incur much in the way of medical costs during the year, is to simply obtain a low-premium, high-deductible policy that is only designed to provide coverage for unexpected, major injury or illness treatment. The catastrophic health insurance policy ensures coverage in the event of such unforeseen medical expenses, while keeping an individual's insurance costs to a minimum.

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.