Medical care without insurance is possible, and if you learn how to navigate the health care system in your area, you can have access to necessary basic health care without ending up bankrupt. While larger cities provide better offerings, those who live in smaller communities usually can access medical care without insurance, as well.
County Health Departments
Most county health departments offer basic services as well as referrals to other health care options if your needs are beyond what they offer. The services usually are offered on a sliding-scale fee based upon your income. Typical services include:
- Treatment of communicable diseases
- Maternity and well-child services
- Tuberculosis treatment
- WIC -- Women, Infant & Children, a federally funded health program
Free Clinics and Medical Schools
Many larger metropolitan areas have some form of free health clinic. The services provided at these clinics are free or offered on a sliding scale based on your income. The hours are typically very limited, and, as a result, there might be a waiting list for services. The services offered also may vary from clinic to clinic. The clinics often are commonly staffed by students from local nursing and medical schools under the supervision of a licensed professional while at the clinic.
Call ahead to see if you qualify for medical care from the clinic based on your income or other criteria.
An example is the Institute for Family Health in New York City. It has two clinics that provide comprehensive health care to adults without insurance. The services are free and confidential and include:
- Medical care for adults -- Women's and men's health, disease prevention and screening, vaccinations and primary medical treatment
- Health education
- Social services -- Eligibility for public assistance, housing, disability and food stamps
- Enrollment in health insurance if you are eligible
Doctors and Hospitals
When you must see a doctor or make a trip to the emergency room, explain your situation to the patient care representatives in the billing office. When patients are uninsured, hospitals and practices frequently make arrangements to extend payments over time, discount services or offer assistance in applying for financial aid.
Check to see if you are eligible for subsidized medical insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Visit HealthCare.gov to find out more information.