Many families lack health or dental insurance. When an uninsured individual is faced with a medical condition, they will often need to scramble to receive the medical care they need and struggle with paying any bills that result from it.
While there are some government funded health insurance programs, including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they do have eligibility requirements and various restrictions in place. However it is always a good idea to apply for them, even if you know that you are not qualified. The reason being is that many non-profit organizations, charities and private programs will require that patients were denied access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid before they will assist. So you should apply, even if it is just to get a formal denial of eligibility notice from them. Another benefit to applying is that even if you or your child is not eligible for Medicaid, you may still be able to enroll in a Medicaid Waiver program.
While the uninsured come from all backgrounds, states, ages, and nationalities, some of the most common classifications and causes include the following.
However anyone can fall into one of these categories from time to time. Some studies show that over 40 million individuals lack health and/or dental insurance for an extended period of time.
Programs for the uninsured or low income vary by state and can change over time. While we try to list many of them here, there are other resources that are not always as well advertised. Never hesitate to call and inquire, or to apply for these programs, whenever your medical, financial, or circumstances change.
Alaska Native Medical Center - Residents of the state can receive services, health information and medical resources. All programs are only for people who live in Alaska. 1-907-563-2662.
American Cancer Society (ACS) - This is a nationwide organization with local “chapters” in every state. It provides resources, including counseling for patients, printed material, and other information on affordable health care options and lodging if you require treatment far from home. In addition, some of the regional ACS offices may offer very limited amounts of financial assistance. This will mostly be reimbursement for bills and expenses related to cancer treatment including medical supplies, transportation, and prescription. Call 1-800-227-2345.
American Dental Association - If you do not have dental insurance, or can’t afford the bill, then this association has a listing of accredited dental schools. Children and adults may be able to receive free or discounted cleaning and dental services. 312-440-2500.
Angel Flight - The national organization arranges for free air transportation in response to healthcare and other human needs. This is a volunteer, non-profit driven organization that seeks to enable patients to receive treatment that might not otherwise be accessible to them because of physical or geographic limitations. 888-426-2643
Aubrey Rose Foundation - This organization helps children who have a life life-threatening medical condition. The foundation will try to provide cash grants to pay for medical bills as a result of treatment. The grants are offered nationwide. 513-265-5801
Breast & Cervical Cancer Program - This is for people who need screening services or are concerned with symptoms. 1-800-232-4636.
Bureau Of Insurance For States - Provides contact information on each state’s public health insurance plans. 816-783-8500.
Charitable hospital programs - Never hesitate to ask the hospital, doctor or medical provider for help. Many facilities will work with uninsured and low income patients. For example, nonprofit hospitals are often required to provide medical care or some form of financial assistance to everyone in order to keep their tax exempt status. Many Children's Hospitals also have some form of charitable programs. It is recommended to call the billing office and to speak to a patient advocate or financial counselor, and get an application.
Children with Special Health Care Needs - While not guaranteed, many states have insurance and assistance programs for children who fall into this category. Some will enroll children year round; others have limited windows and more restrictions on them. They generally have income and asset limits.
Comprehensive Coverage Info By State - Get access to a comprehensive state guide. It will provide information on your rights to specific coverage in your state, such as guaranteed issued plans, prompt-pay-laws, pre-existing medical conditions, and if your state or county offers residents access to high risk health, yet low cost, insurance coverage. 1-800-638-0742
EMERGINGMED - Individuals with cancer can get details on clinical trials, which may be able to offer patients with free care, including access to new, possibly effective treatments. 1-877-601-8601
Eyecare America - Whether you need glasses, contact lenses, checkups, or treatment for your eyes, the organization provides free eye care, facilities, and educational materials to the uninsured and poor. 1-800-222-3937
Foundation for Health Coverage Education - People can get answers to questions about what, if any, health insurance options they qualify for. Case managers and representatives will help people enroll into free or very low cost health insurance plans or public assistance. In addition to helping patients enroll into a number of coverage resources, the not for profit organization also maintains databases of programs by state to help the uninsured find the best resources in their area. 1-800-234-1317
Hearnow - The group operates in all states. They run a national program that is committed to assisting those permanently residing in the U.S. who are hard of hearing or deaf and who do not have resources to acquire hearing aids.
High-Risk Pools - Most states run these programs that sell affordable health insurance to people who have been turned away from more standard plans for any of several reasons. The state will usually offer some form of very limited policy to formally uninsurable residents. While the terms and conditions will vary greatly, the policies generally offer coverage benefits similar to those available through private health insurance companies. However some people may only qualify for limited coverage, and there may be a waiting list to enroll. Call 1-800-638-0742 and ask about these options.
Hill-Burton Program by U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services - Another federal government funded resource. Clinics are available for people who cannot afford care. Hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics, and other healthcare facilities participate as part of Hill-Burton. 1-800-638-0742
Kid and Teen Medical Coverage Options - A federal government resource that connects teenagers, students, and children to free medical coverage, prescriptions, and low cost insurance plans. Also provides applications and information on CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 1-877-543-7669
Large retailers discount drug programs – Many pharmacy chains and supermarkets, including CVS, Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, and Target offer discount programs, especially for generic medications and for customers who lack insurance. Ask your local retailer if they have any resources available. Also inquire if they have any mail order options.
Mission Of Mercy - The uninsured, undocumented, illegal immigrants and others who are disadvantaged can get free healthcare, dental care and even prescription medications. This is only a regional organization though. 301-682-5683
National Association of Free Clinics - They keep a list of free clinics by town, city, and state. 703-647-7427
National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program - Each state offers this service, which includes free mammograms and annual pap smears. Call your Department of Health.
National Cancer Institute (NCI) - Coordinates and has details on cancer related trials. 1-888-624-1937
National Council on Aging / National Center for Senior Benefits Outreach and Enrollment - Individuals over 55 years of age may call upon this group. They are a nationally based advocate for older Americans and senior citizens. While anyone can receive help, they do focus on lower income older adults. For people who are not receiving federal or state government benefits, the organization can help people locate and receive benefits and health care in an effort to assist in medical care, food, prescription medications and other living expenses. Call 202-479-1200.
National Dental Lifeline Network - The disabled, elderly, and at risk patients can receive information and referrals to free dental services and care. It can also assist those who are uninsured or at risk. Telephone 303-534-5360
National Hispanic Prenatal Hotline - In Spanish - It addresses, and helps people overcome, barriers to receiving prenatal care services. Most programs focus on non-English patients, including Hispanics. Case managers can provide access to linguistically and culturally proficient services and information. The non-profit NHPH aims to raise awareness concerning infant mortality and to ensure all women receive free or affordable prenatal care early in their pregnancy. Phone 800-504-7081
The National Institute For Health (NIH) - Also coordinates clinical trials that low income and people who lack health insurance can take advantage of. Dial 1-800-411-1111.
National Patient Travel Center - Offers referrals and information about long-distance medical air transportation. The center can also provide referrals to non-profits and programs that may be able to help patients and their families pay for travel to a hospital or provider. Interested parties can get referrals and help in signing up for services. 1-800-296-1217.
New Eyes For The Needy - Does not have eye exams, but it will improve the vision of poor adults and children by providing recycled or new glasses. Call 1-973-376-4903.
Office Of Minority Health - Can address health care issues for uninsured minorities. Whether you are African American, Hispanic, Indian, Alaska natives, Asian Americans, Latino, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, they may be able to offer support and referrals. Telephone 1-800-444-6472
Older Adults Benefits - A free service known as Benefits Check Up can help adults find prescription drugs, healthcare, and other financial assistance. Call 1-202-479-1200
Partnership For Prescription Assistance - Eligible patients who lack insurance or resources can contact this organization for help in obtaining medicines they need. 888-477-2669
Patient Advocate Foundation - Coordinates free advocacy services for uninsured patients. Everything is done in an effort to address specific health care needs. Call 1-800-532-5274
Pharmacy Checker can be used to compare prices and to find affordable medications. Ensure you are receiving the best price possible. Telephone 718- 554-3067
Redi-Clinic and Minute-clinic walk-ins - Many retailers, such as CVS and Walmart, have clinics right in their stores. They provide people access to trained nursing care for many common conditions like eye infections, common colds, strep throat, bladder infection, sore throat, physicals, Immunizations, and vaccinations. 866-389-2727
RX Aid Prescription Assistance - Runs patient assistance programs that can help the uninsured get needed prescriptions at low cost or for free. Dial 877-610-9360
RX Assist - A comprehensive directory of pharmaceutical companies as well as their patient assistance programs. Many people can find who to call in order to get free medications.
RX Hope - This is another nationwide clearinghouse that provides information on prescription assistance for low income and uninsured U.S. residents. 877-267-0517
Road To Recovery – The program is run in partnership with the American Cancer Society. It provides transportation for patients to and from treatment. It is for those who have cancer and who are unable to drive themselves, can’t afford to pay for gasoline or do not have a ride. Volunteer drivers donate their time to assist cancer patients. Telephone 1-800-227-2345.
Self-pay Medical Discounts - Uninsured patients can look into pre-negotiated low cost self-pay options for MRI Scans, Radiologist services, or CT scans. The resources are not dependant on health insurance coverage. Phone 888-380-6337.
State drug assistance programs – Many states provide discounts for certain residents and/or diseases. For example, there is an HIV program, discounts or free medications for children, and many seniors may also qualify for aid.
State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAP) - These are normally offered for disabled, senior citizens, uninsured and others. Almost every state has them. To find a listing, the National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a list of these programs as well as information on eligibility requirements. Call 202-624-5400.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Locate Rural Health Clinics as well as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). These are required to treat everyone, regardless of income or insurance status. They also help immigrants, people with limited English proficiency, lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender patients, children and youth, and of course uninsured or people with special healthcare needs. Medical care offered includes immunizations, checkups, pregnant care, substance abuse care, checkups for children, dental care, and mental health services. 1-877-464-4772
The National Long-term Care Ombudsman Resource Center - For seniors and it will help them find affordable long term care. 202-332-2275
Vision USA - Low-income people and their families can receive free, basic eye health and vision care services. Telephone number is 1-800-766-4466.
In addition to the nationwide resources listed above, many states provide their residents with additional options. A number of qualifications will need to be met by applicants, including income and other thresholds. Some are offered by non-profits or charities, and other programs for the uninsured are offered directly by the state government.