There are plenty of reasons why you might not have health insurance. For example, you may have been under your parent’s health insurance but are no longer eligible because you turned 26. Or, you may have had health insurance through your employer but lost it when you changed jobs.
Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to know your options. Here are some things to consider:
Check out the Health Insurance Marketplace
The Health Insurance Marketplace is a service that helps people shop for and enroll in health insurance. You can enroll through the healthcare.gov website, by calling them, or in person.
Navigating health insurance might seem confusing. But don’t worry! Our article on “How to Navigate Health Insurance” can help you learn the lingo and decide which plan is best for you.
If You are Eligible – Enroll in Medicaid
Medicaid is a healthcare program that provides health coverage for low-income children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Through Medicaid, you can get free or low-cost healthcare through providers that accept this kind of insurance.
If you qualify and get Medicaid, you can visit any clinic that accepts Medicaid to get the health services you need at no or low cost. Apply for Medicaid online and contact your state Medicaid office if you are confused about whether or not you are eligible.
Look for Patient Assistance Programs
Getting health care without insurance is possible if you find clinics and hospitals offering patient assistance programs. You can learn more about these programs by asking the receptionist at a clinic or hospital for more information. You may also ask the receptionist to connect you with the coordinator who oversees their patient assistance program.
If you have already received medical services but are not able to pay, typically, they will ask you to fill out an application for financial help to pay your medical bill. Your bill can be greatly reduced or even completely covered, depending on your situation. More than likely, the clinic or hospital will have information about their financial assistance services on their website, but you can also speak with someone to learn more.
Ask for a Discount or Payment Plan
When you go to a clinic or hospital, mention that you are uninsured and would like to know if they can offer you a discount. Also, ask if they can set up a payment plan – where you pay what you owe for a service over time – like once a month – rather than paying in full right after your visit.
Most clinics and hospitals are willing to work with you to figure out how you can pay your medical bills! Don’t be afraid to ask.
Go to an Urgent Care Center
If your health condition is not truly a life or death emergency but you need help now, urgent care centers are alternatives to an emergency room. Most urgent care centers offer quick health care to those who are uninsured, and they are usually less expensive than the emergency room. They also provide care outside of regular business hours and can be faster than the emergency room.
Visit Community Health Centers
Most cities and counties have one or more community health centers whose services are free. Community health centers usually have primary care doctors, mental health doctors, and pharmacists, and may have dental, vision, and oral care doctors. They might also provide screenings and testing services. You can find a community health center near you by using this tool.
Visit Your Tribal Clinic
If you are nearby, your Tribal clinic is a great resource for receiving primary care services and possibly vision, dental, and oral healthcare. Depending on how the clinic runs, you might be able to get these services free of charge. There are even some Tribal clinics that offer care to American Indians and Alaska Natives who aren’t from that Tribal community. Call or visit your local Tribal clinic to learn more.
Get Free Screenings
Check with local pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics to see if they offer any free health screenings. Common screenings include testing you for high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. At certain times these might be free.
Being uninsured does not mean you can’t access affordable health care. Look into these options to get low-cost or free care in your community.
For more information, check out these resources:
- How to Navigate Health Insurance
- Health Insurance Basics (for Teens)
- Health Care Coverage Options for Young Adults
Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.