Not everyone has health insurance, but sooner or later, everyone has medical problems. To find health care when you don't have health insurance, contact your county and state health departments. Resources vary among areas, but the agencies should know what's available where you live. If you have medical schools nearby, talk to them too. Students often work at free or low-cost clinics as part of their training. Some houses of worship keep track of charitable services in their community and can steer you toward the right one.
Medicaid and Children's Coverage
Low-income families and individual may qualify for the federal Medicaid program. Even if the adults in the family don't, the children may qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a program that provides coverage for kids' health. Each state sets its own guidelines for who qualifies for Medicaid. County and state health departments can explain the qualifications and the application process.
Federally supported health centers are scattered across the country in communities with a shortage of medical care. Health centers provide primary medical care and support services -- transportation for people who can't drive, translators for non-English speaking patients. The Health Resources and Services Administration says the centers provide services to all, with fees based on the ability to pay. You can search for centers near you on the HRSA website.
The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics has a find-a-clinic tool on its website. The association says some of the clinics may charge on a sliding scale, but all of them provide essential services regardless of whether patients can pay. A clinic may offer general care, dental care, psychology, eye care, prescription drugs or therapy and counseling.
Emergency rooms do not turn anyone away, regardless of insurance. The ER costs much more than a regular doctor visit, however, so it's not an ideal source for non-emergency care. Some hospital charge patients an upfront fee for non-emergency ER treatment. Urgent care centers are usually cheaper for anyone who doesn't have an actual emergency. The centers take uninsured patients, but it costs more for a patient who doesn't have any insurance coverage,
Affordable Care Act
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the government requires everyone to have health insurance. You can request an exemption if you income is too low to afford even the lowest-priced health plan. If you do apply for coverage through the ACA insurance marketplace, staff will tell you whether there are plans within your financial range, or if you qualify for Medicaid. The marketplace insurance plans include options that allow lower-income customers to save on, for example, deductibles and co-pays.
- Healthcare.gov: Find Out if You Qualify for Medicaid and CHIP
- Health Resources and Services Administration: What Is a Health Center?
- National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics: What is a Free or Charitable Clinic?
- USA Today: More Patients Flocking to E/Rs Under Obamacare
- Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Demand Payment Upfront From ER Patients With Routine Problems
- Healthcare.gov: How to Claim an Exemption ...
- Healthcare.gov: A Quick Guide to the Marketplace
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