5/16/2012 8:04 PM ET|
Survival guide for the uninsured
Low- and no-cost health care
Here are some of the resources available for various kinds of treatment:
Routine and diagnostic care. The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics has links to free and low-cost health providers across the U.S.
In addition, hundreds of community health centers around the country offer free or low-cost care. To find a site near you, visit the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration's Health Center Program. You can also use this link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website to find state health departments, which provide additional clinics and resources for the uninsured.
The CDC also has this guide for women looking for inexpensive mammograms and Pap smears. The American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 can direct you to services that provide free or cheap screenings for various types of cancer.
Keep an eye out, too, for any health fairs sponsored by local employers or community organizations. Free and low-cost screenings for common ailments, from depression to high cholesterol, are a routine part of these festivals.
Birth control and reproductive care. Many of the free and low-cost clinics listed above provide reproductive care, or you can contact Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which specializes in free and low-cost help for men and women.
Prescriptions. Some companies market drug discount cards that might entitle you to small breaks on prescription prices, but if you're low income you might qualify for assistance programs run by the pharmaceutical companies. Three sites to check: NeedyMeds, RxAssist and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.
Also, ask your doctor for free samples of any drugs prescribed. Most physicians have closets full of them.
Vision.Lions Club International is famous for its charity eye care campaigns, which provide free screenings and recycled glasses. If you have a low-wage job but no vision coverage, the American Optometric Association may be able to hook you up with a volunteer doctor of optometry for a free exam through its Vision USA program. If you're 65 or older, the American Academy of Ophthalmology may be able to provide exams and treatment through its EyeCare America foundation.
Dental. If going to the dentist terrifies you, the idea of going to a rookie dentist probably isn't going to put you any more at ease. But dental schools provide inexpensive and well-supervised treatment. To find the one nearest you, visit the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. In addition, some of the free clinics listed above provide dental services.
Emergency care. If you're facing a life-threatening situation, hospital emergency rooms are required to evaluate and stabilize you before asking about your ability to pay. A very limited number of hospitals are required to provide such care for free if you're poor, but the vast majority can bill you (and may hound you aggressively with collection agencies).
That's why if your situation is anything less than critical, you may want to explore alternatives to emergency room treatment. Many uninsured Americans wind up in the ER with non-critical conditions simply because they don't know where else to go. With the information here, you now know some of your other options.
And don't forget . . .
Finally, three other things to consider:
Medical coverage through your auto insurance. When you have a good health plan, you typically don't need the medical protection offered on your auto insurance policy. If you're uninsured, though, this coverage could pay your bills if you or your passengers are injured in an auto accident.
Negotiating discounts. Many medical providers offer charitable care or financial aid that can significantly reduce the bill for low- and middle-income people without insurance. Also, you should ask to be charged the same rate as large insurance companies, since otherwise you'll pay the much higher "sticker price" for care. You may also get a discount for paying cash, or paying the bill within a short amount of time. Read "How to haggle over medical bills" for tips on successful strategies.
Bankruptcy protection. If you're hit with catastrophic medical bills, consider consulting with a bankruptcy attorney sooner rather than later. Bankruptcy laws have recently been toughened, but people with incomes below the median for their states can still erase medical bills and most other unsecured debts.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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Prescriptions- Liz forgot to mention you can shop around for the lowest cost. If you do not have a Costco card you can still use the pharmacy.
Also- call your local pharmacy to see if they will "price match".
Walmart is not always cheaper- a generic script would cost me $33 at Walmart- $11 at Target. Walmart advised me they did not price match.
This article was totally useless! The author assumes that you can afford to get insurance, but you just don't know what's available to you. Don't you realize that most people who don't have health insurance don't have it because they can't afford it? Any reasonably intelligent person realizes that health insurance is important. Millions of Americans don't have it because they work for minimum wage or slightly above and their employers don't offer insurance, or they are un-employed and there's NO WAY they can pay for insurance. An earlier post was from a guy who made $60,000 a year and can't afford $1200 per month to cover his wife and kids. How I WISH I had his problem!!
I make less than $9.00 per hour. My take home pay is approximately $1100 per month. I barely scrape by with the normal bills a person has. Our economy is crap! NO WAY CAN I AFFORD HEALTH INSURANCE. I don't even go to the local "poor peoples clinic" unless it's an emergency because I can't afford the $30 office call. (Which is reasonable and the Dr. is awesome!)
There is NOTHING about the Affordable Health Care Act that will be affordable for people like me.
BTW, for those that wonder, I'm a single, 60 year old, college educated woman doing everything I can to take care of me. I'm not some low class bum waiting for a handout, a young kid who doesn't know any better, or any other class you might want to put me in.
OBAMACARE JUST WON'T WORK!!!
If you are out of options, there is one more that no one ever talks about- the Military. If you can qualify for one of the services ( especially if you have desirable civilian skills and education ) ,their family benefits package is almost as good as the Federal Government. In addition you'll get paid, free food , room and board, and education benefits when you get discharged. There are alot of people who have gone this route during the current recession. It beats being homeless or unemployed with no benefits.
By the way , I went this route. After my discharge, I went to college and got a degree, then another one. And now, I have a very successful and secure corporate career.
Yes, but what do you do when you're unemployed and can't afford coverage, as I have been for the past TEN YEARS? The only way that I can get to see a Dr. is through what is known as CHARITY CARE, but who knows how long that will last.
The late comedian George Carlin said it best... "THE REASON THEY CALL IT THE AMERICAN DREAM IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO BE ASLEEP TO BELIEVE IT"
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