California has a wide ranging network of community clinics that provide local residents with free or heavily discounted health care and medical services. With the weak economy, the recently unemployed, newly uninsured, underinsured, and others in need of care are increasingly using using health care clinic to meet their needs. Currently California has about 800 health centers and community clinics, and many of these are reporting an almost 50% increase in patient visits this year.
The local community clinics may be run by nonprofit organizations or public agencies. While some California clinics are in fact free, many do offer a combination of free services and discounted rates that are based on the patients' ability to pay for their medical needs.
Find more details and some frequently asked questions about the programs below.
If you can’t afford private health insurance, and if you no longer have access to group health care coverage then you may qualify for a public California health care program such as Medi-Cal. This is a program that is offered by both the state and federal government and is for both the sick and indigent. Community clinics throughout the state provide preventative and primary care services for virtually anyone. And if you are a patients who needs immediate care, you will be sent to a hospital emergency room.
Most California counties, including Alameda, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Contra Costa have a public health plan that is available for low and moderate income residents. As an example, San Francisco offers Healthy San Francisco, which is a universal health program for the uninsured that relies primarily on San Francisco General Hospital and a network of clinics to provide health care services to those in need of assistance.
While the services and fees offered by health care clinics vary, in general most are free or charge fees on a sliding scale that are based on a patients ability to pay. Clinics that do charge patients fees are often those that have a special federal designation that allows them to receive higher Medi-Cal reimbursement rates in exchange for the clinic agreeing to see and provide assistance to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay the bills.
Similar to the answer above. The answer will depend. For example, if you visit a free clinic, then yes you can get free care. As noted above, those clinics that receive higher Medi-Cal reimbursement rates from the state of California charge patients based upon a sliding fee scale, which is partly based on family size and total household income. These health care clinics also can offer free medical services to those with no ability to pay for any health care.
While most clinics have staff and other coordinators who can help people sign up for the assistance programs, they can also direct them to the proper services and medical centers. If you are interested in learning more, or to find a community clinic health center in your area, click here or call (888) 895-0808.
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