How to Cope When You Have No Health Insurance
The cost of health insurance is scary, but having no health insurance can be downright terrifying. If you've lost access to insurance, you may be wondering how you'll survive. If you or a family member has a pre-existing condition, covering the costs of all of the prescription drugs and doctor's visits you need may seem impossible. Is there a way to get good health care even if your finances are unstable?
The Patient Advocate Foundation may be a good place to start. This organization offers free help to people with chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening illnesses who have no or limited health coverage, and it served more than 55,000 people last year. According to chief of external communications Erin Moaratty, the first thing the staff does is get a complete picture of a patient's financial situation. Then the organization sifts through various programs at the federal, state, and county levels to determine what, if anything, a patient may be eligible for. Here are some possibilities to consider if an independent health policy is out of your budget:
Apply for Medicare. Middle-aged and young people are sometimes surprised to learn that they qualify for Medicare, the federal government's health-insurance program for people aged 65 and older. But patients with certain disabilities, such as Lou Gehrig's disease or permanent kidney failure, may be eligible much sooner.
Apply for Medicaid. If your income is low enough, you may qualify for Medicaid, the federal government's health-insurance program for people with limited incomes and resources. But since Medicaid requirements vary from state to state, Moaratty suggests you contact your local Medicaid office to find out what the particular guidelines are where you live.
Negotiate with your provider. Explain your financial situation and ask if the bill can be reduced. Many doctors will either charge you less or offer you a payment plan. And don't assume that large institutions will refuse to help you, either. "A lot of hospitals and facilities have a charity option," Moaratty says. If your doctor won't cut her fee, ask if she knows of another place where you can get treated for certain conditions while still going to her for consultations and office visits.
Look into free drug programs. Many pharmacies offer these, and you may be able to get up to a year's worth of a particular drug. Since skipping medications can worsen an illness and mean further treatment down the line, "[these programs are] a wonderful opportunity for someone to maintain access to the necessary medications to make sure their condition remains stable," Moaratty says. Also try www.needymeds.com and www.pparx.org.
You may also be interested in QualityHealth's Prescription Savings Card. It can help you save up to 70 percent on prescriptions at thousands of pharmacies nationwide. Go to https://www.qualityhealth.com/rxcard for more information.
Erin Moaratty, Patient Advocate Foundation.
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