If you don’t have health coverage through an employer, and you can’t afford private health insurance, you may think you can’t get medical treatment, but that need not be the case. In 2007, approximately 50 million Americans did not have any type of health coverage, according to HealthCareProblems.org. In 2010, that number increased to nearly 52 million. If you need medical treatment, federal and state programs may offer some assistance.
Apply for Medicaid coverage if you have little or no income. Medicaid receives funding from the federal government and from individual states, although each state has its own eligibility rules. The program offers health coverage to those with the greatest financial need. You’ll need proof of income, your Social Security number, and a record of your financial assets, when applying.
Seek prompt medical treatment at the emergency room of your local hospital. According to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a hospital must exam you and treat you if your condition is a medical emergency. Alternately, the hospital may transfer you to another medical facility where you may receive care. If your medical condition is not an emergency, however, the hospital may deny treatment after the exam.
Make financial arrangements with a doctor’s office or a medical clinic in advance. Some physicians will treat patients who do not have private medical insurance and set up payment plans. Sometimes, the cost for medical treatment, under a personal payment plan, is less than the fees charged to health insurance agencies, but this decision is up to the individual doctor or clinic. Some doctors may negotiate their fees.
Visit a medical training center. If you live near a university teaching hospital, you may qualify for reduced-cost medical treatment, administered by highly trained medical students who have not yet earned their degrees. These teaching hospitals and centers offer cutting-edge medical care at a fraction of the cost you would pay a private medical clinic. Some offer sliding scale fees, based upon your income.
Contact your local welfare and human services office to find which services are available in your community and how you can apply for them. In addition to state and federal Medicaid health coverage programs, your community may have local initiatives that help those without health insurance receive the medical treatment they need.
Pay a little each month if possible; even you receive a large bill for medical services. This may prevent the clinic from turning over your bill to collections, which can affect your credit rating.
Don’t wait to seek treatment until a health issue becomes an emergency. Be straightforward with the doctor or the hospital about your inability to pay. The facility may treat you anyway.
In a health emergency, hospitals will provide at least enough treatment to stabilize you regardless of your ability to pay.