At the Doctor’s Office
Many physicians offer reduced rates and payment plans for those without adequate health insurance. Office staff can make arrangements as soon as they are aware of the patient’s financial situation. Additionally, free clinics give the neediest patients no-cost medical care. The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) and Planned Parenthood are two reliable networks.
Direct primary care (DPC) allows a patient to avoid health insurance for doctor visits. Doctors who are in DPC practices charge patients a set fee. In exchange, the physician takes care of their medical needs during that time frame. Lab tests and medications are typically additional charges.
At the Pharmacy
For prescription coupons, see GoodRX. To find the local pharmacy with the lowest price for a medication, use Needy Meds’ price calculator. Needy Meds also has a library of health webinars and a discount drug card. If all else fails, use Needy Meds to apply for assistance from the county or a nonprofit.
Many chain pharmacies, such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, also have low-cost clinics. There, nurse practitioners diagnose and prescribe for less than a doctor’s office would charge.
At the Hospital
Federal law explicitly guarantees treatment for everyone at a hospital emergency room (ER). Payment is another story. Patients need to explain upfront their financial situation. If the patient has been unemployed for six months, the hospital may waive its charges. It can at least put a patient on a monthly payment plan. Note that urgent care clinics charge a fraction of what the ER does, and the wait times are shorter. To find them, search online by zip code.
There are a few charitable hospitals and clinics left around the country. They offer free care or reduced fees based on a sliding scale of income. In addition, local hospitals offer free health screenings for preventive health care. Its community calendar has dates and times.
Accessing health care without insurance is complicated. For more help, the Patient Advocate Foundation offers case management and financial aid. For some patients, free clinical trials may also be beneficial. Finally, visit the health insurance marketplace to price available health plans in the region.