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Finding Low-Cost and Free Medical Care

Health Insurance typically pays part of medical costs, but if you do not have health insurance, you may qualify for financial assistance through government programs or nonprofit organizations.

What is Health Insurance?

Health Insurance is your protection from high medical costs. Most Americans receive their health insurance through their employer, who helps to pay for it. Many times, the reason these people can receive reduced-price care is because the employers have contracts with specific health care providers.

Health insurance can be purchased by an individual, but it typically costs more than that of employer-provided insurance. Some people meet certain requirements that allow them to apply for government health insurance, such as Medicare or Medicaid, which will be reference later in this article.

Those without health insurance must either pay their medical bills in their entirety by themselves, or they must hope that they can find a health care provider that will "donate" the care for free or at a low cost. Financial assistance is available.

Sources of Free or Low-Cost Health Care

HealthCare.gov

HealthCare.gov is a website designed to help the average person find and understand health care coverage. In order to find health care insurance specific to your needs, you can use the Find Insurance Options tab which brings up a questionnaire that will generate some options and descriptions of those options. Most of these options are chosen with regards to lowest premiums and lowest out-of-pocket costs.

Health Resources and Services Administration

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is a website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose purpose is to find a health center near you that will work with you and your income so that you receive care, but only pay for what you can afford. These centers will provide things like normal check-ups, pregnancy care, and substance abuse issues among many more.

Foundation for Health Coverage Education

The Foundation for Health Coverage Education is a resource that offers four methods to help you find health coverage in your area.

1. You can begin by taking a Health Coverage Eligibility Quiz, which will help you determine what programs you or your family may be qualified for.

2. Through the U.S. Uninsured Help Line at (800)-234-1317, operators are available 24/7 to speak to you about your health care coverage options.

3. The Foundation for Health Coverage Education also allows you to print your particular state's guide for public and private health care coverage options with the Health Care Options Matrix Guide.

4. The fourth option is an Application and Enrollment Database that is meant to help you find resources for health care coverage programs in your state.

Bureau of Primary Health Care

The Bureau of Primary Health Care, a service of the Health Resources and Services Administration (1-888-Ask-HRSA), supports federally-funded community health centers across the country that provide free or reduced-cost health services.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers three important federally-funded programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Medicare is a health insurance program for people who are 65 years and older or for people with specific disabilities and illnesses. Medicare consists of four parts that help pay for health care but do not cover all costs.

Medicaid is a state-run program that provides medical benefits to eligible individuals and families. States set their own guidelines regarding who is eligible and what services are covered. More information about what Medicaid costs and covers as well as where you can get it can be found on Healthcare.gov - Medicaid.

CHIP helps children up to age 19 who are without health insurance. CHIP provides medical coverage to children who qualify.

CMS (1-800-MEDICARE) can provide detailed information about each of these programs and refer you to state programs where applicable.

Clinical Trials

The term clinical trial emphasizes that the research is in a testing or trial stage before it can be approved for regular medical care. Participation in a clinical trial may include free or low-cost health care, depending on the study. For a complete list of all federally funded clinical trials, visit ClinicalTrials.gov. To see if you qualify for any clinical trials being conducted at the Bethesda, Maryland, campus, you can call the Clinical Center's Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office at 1-800-411-1222. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services has information to help you Learn More About Medicare and Clinical Research Studies.

State and Local Resources

Your state or local health department may know of programs in your area that offer free or reduced-cost medical care. Call your local or state health department to learn more about their financial assistance programs. Check your local telephone book for the number to call.

Community Health Centers are also options when looking for health care. These centers can be hospitals, clinics, or health centers that provide care based on your specific ability to pay.

For more information:

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Last Reviewed: Oct 19, 2011

NetWellness Staff
NetWellness.org