Medical emergencies pop up with little or no warning, often leaving families struggling to find a way to pay for needed care. Lower and middle-income families may have inadequate savings or even no savings and are often uninsured or underinsured. Those gaps in coverage can end up wreaking havoc on a family’s financial resources at a time when the last thing they want to think about is money. Knowing where to turn to in the event of an unexpected medical emergency can ease this all-too-common burden. Let’s run down some resources that families can use to get the care they need.
Free Medical Insurance for Families
The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid programs in many states, making it possible for a greater number of families to qualify for assistance. Visit HealthCare.gov to find a link to your state’s web page to determine if you are eligible. InsureKidsNow.gov also offers expanded health insurance for children 18 and under via the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Dial 1-877-KIDS-NOW to find out if you qualify and start the application process.
Assistance with Prescriptions
Getting the medical attention you need is of little help if you can’t follow up with any prescriptions needed for your condition. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance at PPARX.org offers assistance with finding free or low-cost medication from a host of major drug companies. The organization links 475 different patient assistance programs under one umbrella with a simple application process that makes it easy to apply. Once approved, they ship medication to your home or doctor’s office. Walmart, Rite-Aid and other national chains offer low-cost prescriptions for many common formularies; for example, Walmart offers $4 refills on many of the most commonly prescribed drugs.
Social Security Hotline
Whether you work or not, the Social Security Administration may have programs that you qualify for that can help you with medical and other costs. Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) are two such programs that offer monetary payments and other benefits to qualified individuals. Medicare, a type of health insurance for disabled and elderly persons, may also be an option. Find out more by calling the Social Security hotline at 1-800-272-1214 or the Medicare hotline at 1-800-MEDICARE. You can also learn more by visiting SSA.gov or Medicare.gov.
Many clinics offer free or low-cost care for low-income patients. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources lists these clinics at HRSA.gov. You can also check your Yellow Pages online to find free or reduced-cost clinics in your area. The National Association of Free Clinics publishes an evolving list of free clinics and related resources. Freeclinics.com also maintains state-by-state listings of free clinics.
Elder Care Resources
With age comes reduced income, and sadly, many senior citizens are unable to afford the treatment that they need, especially during an emergency. Find resources to help struggling seniors by dialing the Elder Care hotline at 1-800-336-4797.
Connect with the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222 to get advice and assistance with potential poisonings. This number connects to a representative trained to offer expert medical advice around the clock from one of 55 poison centers in the United States.
Many state health departments offer mammograms free or at reduced cost to those who meet income restrictions. Other providers also participate in the free mammogram program to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Women who make less than $50K per year usually qualify. To find out more, contact the Cancer Prevention division of the Centers for Disease Control at 1-770-488-4751.
Mental Health Hotline
Mental health care can be just as pressing as physical health care. Find mental health assistance through Mental Health America’s Affiliate search at NMHA.org or the Health Resources and Services Administration website at HRSA.gov.
National Immunization Hotline
Immunizations can be expensive, but there is help available for those who qualify. Contact the National Immunization Hotline to find out about free vaccinations for your children. Dial 1-800-232-2522.
Drug, Alcohol, and Dependence Hotlines
Find help for drug or alcohol dependency through the National Drug and Treatment Routing Service, a division of the National Institute of Health and Department of Health by dialing 1-800-662-HELP. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Abuse also offers assistance in finding affordable treatment for substance and alcohol abuse. Get the ball rolling by dialing 1-800-729-6686.
For pressing mental health issues involving suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK is available. The organization also operates SuicidePreventionLifeline.org for additional resources and information.
If you find yourself in an actual emergency, don’t let financial constraints keep you from getting the care you need. Under the federal Emergency Treatment and Labor Act, hospital emergency departments cannot refuse to render care to a patient due to the patient’s inability to pay or lack of insurance. Most hospitals are willing to work out a payment plan for patients with no insurance and may even be able to direct you to resources for getting insurance or at least assistance in paying for your care.
Many people fail to get the help they need, even when they are entitled to it because they don’t know it exists. If you or someone in your family needs medical attention, and you can’t afford it, take the initiative, go out, and look. Talk to hospitals, clinics, school nurses, local social service organizations. Use the hotlines listed above. If they refer you to other offices, go to those offices. Make your case and explain your need clearly, and be persistent, especially if a child is involved. The process can be frustrating and challenging, but help is out there, and the old saying that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” has a lot of truth to it. Health is the highest priority, and should not be put off or worked around. If the need is there, look for help and don’t stop until you find it.
1. “Find a Clinic” . NAFCClinics.org