Uninsured or Underinsured? Where to Find Help

In these difficult economic times, more and more of us are finding ourselves without health insurance. And even those who still have insurance are finding their deductibles and co-pays increasing.

by Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate

In these difficult economic times, more and more of us are finding ourselves without health insurance. And even those who still have insurance are finding their deductibles and co-pays increasing.

For that reason, I have put together a collection of healthcare resources that may be able to help if you have no insurance or if the insurance you have is inadequate.

If you know of others, please post a comment and share it with us.

Free or Low Cost Medical Care

- The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARx) has a Free Clinic Finder. Type in your zip code to find free and low-cost clinics in your area.

- NeedyMeds.org also has a searchable directory of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics.
You can search by state or zip code.

- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a listing of federally-funded health centers that can be found in most cities and many rural areas.

Federally-funded health centers care for you, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford based on your income.

Health centers provide:

  • Checkups when you're well.

  • Treatment when you're sick.

  • Complete care when you're pregnant.

  • Immunizations and checkups for your children.

  • Dental care and prescription drugs for your family.

  • Mental health and substance abuse care if you need it.

All you have to do is enter your address, county or state to find the health centers near you.

- Most cities, counties and/or states have Health Departments that offer free or low-cost healthcare based on your income. Check your local phone directory or google the name of your county or state with Health Department (Ex., Greene County Health Department).

Free and Discounted Prescriptions

- If you do not have prescription drug coverage, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARx.org) can help you locate public and private patient assistance programs that you may qualify for. I have been able to get my most expensive medication free through PPARx for three years.

- NeedyMeds.org provides a wealth of information about and links to:

  • Patient Assistance Programs for brand name and generic drugs

  • Government Programs

  • Programs for Children

They also offer a drug discount card that can save you up to 80% or more off the cost of:

  • Prescription Medicines

  • Over-the-Counter Drugs

  • Pet Prescription Drugs

- Most large chain drug and discount stores like Walgreens, CVS, WalMart, Target and Costco have programs that offer many generic drugs at a special low price.
Some require a small annual fee but others do not.
Check the store's Web site or call them to check their fees and find out which of your medications are included.
I've personally been using WalMart's $4 Prescription Program for a couple of years and have saved hundreds of dollars on my prescriptions.

Help With Insurance Premiums or Co-Pays

  • The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARx.org) provides a list of organizations that provide financial assistance for certain healthcare costs to patients who qualify financially and medically.

  • The Patient Advocate Foundation's Co-Pay Relief Program provides co-payment assistance to insured Americans who financially and medically qualify. The list of diagnoses they cover includes pain.

  • The National Underinsured Resource Directory helps underinsured individuals and families locate valuable resources and seek alternative coverage options or methods for better reimbursement.

  • Managed RX Plans is a pharmacy that provides prescription drugs at no cost to those who have an acceptable major medical insurance with prescription coverage (after deductible has been met).

  • The HealthWell Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is committed to addressing the needs of individuals with insurance who cannot afford their copayments, coinsurance, and premiums for important medical treatments.

  • The Patient Advocate Foundation's Patient Services provides patients with arbitration, mediation and negotiation to settle issues with access to care, medical debt, and job retention related to their illness.

Financial Assistance Programs

The Patient Advocate Foundation has a list of organizations that offer various types of financial assistance for patients.

When All Else Fails, Negotiate

If you don't have health insurance, don't hesitate to discuss your situation with your doctor. Many doctors are willing to offer you a discount if you pay upfront and some will allow you to pay over time.

The fees they get from insurance companies and Medicare are generally discounted, so they're really not losing much by offering you a similar discount.

Be sure you talk with your doctor about this, though - not his office staff or nurse.

Most doctors became doctors because they wanted to help people. You'd be surprised at just how much your doctor can help you save on medical costs.

My doctor is an excellent example. Following are a few of the ways she has helped me keep my medical costs to a minimum:

  • She gives me a 30% discount on her fee when I pay at the time of the visit.

  • Whenever possible, she tries to find a generic medication on WalMart's $4 list that will work for me.

  • She doesn't order lab work unless it's absolutely necessary.

  • When I do need lab work, she draws the blood in her office rather than sending me to a lab and charges me significantly less.

  • She notifies me whenever she hears of a free screening or test being offered, such as free mammograms.

  • She tells me who to talk to at the local hospital in order to get a discount on anything I need there.

I hope this list helps you get the medical care you need.

Karen Lee Richards
Meet Our Writer
Karen Lee Richards

Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She writes for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.