Providing health care to uninsured patients can be an arduous task. Not only do they use fewer services than insured individuals, but they can also struggle to pay for care. Providers either absorb the costs as bad debt or tap into uncompensated funding sources – which can be inefficient and do not target the neediest patients. These people can also face financial difficulties, including bankruptcy and credit problems.
Free or Low-Cost Care
Urgent care clinics are often located in retail stores designed to offer quick medical attention for a reasonable price. These clinics are usually faster and less expensive than the emergency room, and they often accept direct payments from uninsured patients. Depending on the severity of your condition, urgent care centers can cost as little as $100 or $200.
You may be able to get a discounted rate if you negotiate with your health insurance provider. Some hospitals and doctors also offer payment plans for those who don’t have insurance. You can even get health care for free through government programs.
Government Health Insurance Programs
There are a few ways the Government can help the uninsured access healthcare. One way is by expanding Medicaid. Medicaid is a government program that provides health coverage to low-income Americans. But not everyone can qualify for Medicaid. Those who qualify for Medicaid also pay more for premiums.
In 2018, there were 30.4 million uninsured Americans in the United States. These people did not have health insurance because of cost. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the uninsured population is expected to reach 31 million in 2020. These people are disproportionately low-income.
Other state-based programs help the uninsured obtain medical coverage. These include Medicaid, which provides coverage to low-income families with children. Depending on the state, Medicaid may also cover the elderly and disabled.
Non-Profit Health Centers
Non-profit health centers are valuable resources for the uninsured, as they can provide expensive medical care at affordable rates. Many of these facilities also provide drug treatment programs and psychiatric care. They are also better equipped to handle community health problems like the opioid crisis.
Non-profit health centers can provide immediate care for patients who need it most. Some can even offer telehealth services for free or on a sliding-scale basis. They can also help patients afford prescription medications or other necessary monitoring devices. These organizations serve uninsured and insured patients, many of which are also part of church-based networks.
Non-profit health centers have no financial incentive to overcharge or bill for services that are not essential. Sometimes, patients have been charged hundreds of dollars for basic laboratory tests, but a non-profit hospital does not have this incentive. As a result, they may be more consistent in their pricing policies, which benefits both self-pay and insured patients.
Charity Care Programs
Charity care programs are designed to provide free or discounted medical care for patients who cannot pay for their treatment. They can be found at hospitals and similar healthcare facilities. Some hospitals have dedicated financial navigators or counselors to help patients understand how to qualify for charity care.
Applying for charity care can take anywhere from two to six weeks. The length of the process depends on the amount of documentation the patient provides and the backlog of charity care applications. Once the application is approved, the hospital will reimburse the patient for the costs covered by charity care.