Finding affordable health care without insurance can seem daunting, but there are more options than you might think. Here are more than 18 resources that can help you.
It’s no secret that access to health care can be very expensive. If you don’t have insurance, these costs are even higher. In reality, 85% of uninsured people in the United States said it was difficult to pay for health care in 2022.
Fortunately, there are resources that can help you find and pay for uninsured medical care. You can find low-cost or free care through a variety of programs designed to help people without health insurance get the care they need.
Yes, you can get medical care if you don’t have health insurance.
In the United States, hospital emergency rooms are required to provide treatment regardless of insurance or ability to pay.
Additionally, there are many medical institutions that provide routine care to people who do not have insurance. You will be asked to pay for any care you receive, but there are ways to find health care more cheaply.
There are a variety of options for getting care if you don’t have insurance. Many of these options are designed to be affordable. In some cases, you may be able to get certain health services for free.
You can find inexpensive or free care in several places:
Community health centers
Community health centers are non-profit health clinics that offer low-cost or free care. Often fees are set on a sliding scale based on income, and staff will work with you to determine your costs.
The exact services offered by a community health center depend on the location, but generally include:
- preventive health care
- basic health care
- family planning services
- chronic disease management
Some community health centers also offer prescription medications and dental care. You can search for community health centers near you by check here.
State or county health departments
Your state or county health department may cover certain health services for eligible residents. Often this includes access to preventative care, such as vaccinations or screenings.
You may need to register in advance and prove that you reside in the county or state to receive free care.
You can search for your local health department here.
Emergency care and walk-in clinics
Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics provide walk-in care. Often these facilities offer reduced cost care for people who do not have insurance. Some urgent care centers list costs for standard services on their websites.
You can also call ahead to discuss with a representative fees and possible cost reductions for those without insurance.
Pharmacy care clinics
Pharmacies, including large national chain pharmacies such as Walmart, often provide preventive care services free of charge. These services are normally provided at health clinics held on specific days.
The services offered may vary but generally include:
You can check with your local pharmacy for upcoming clinics or search online for pharmacy clinics in your area.
If you have a teaching hospital in your area, you may be able to receive care at a reduced rate. The exact care you can access at a discounted rate depends on the hospital and medical student needs.
You can call the university hospital and ask if they offer reduced cost care.
Employer sponsored wellness programs
Some employers offer wellness programs for their employees. In many cases, this includes preventive health care, such as annual vaccinations and medical screenings.
You can ask your human resources department if you are unsure about the health care benefits that are part of your employer’s wellness program.
The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics
You can use the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics website to find health clinics and pharmacies in your area that offer free or low-cost services.
The association is dedicated to the care of uninsured or underinsured people. There are over 1,400 clinics and pharmacies in the association.
If you need help paying for your care, you have several options:
Some states offer charitable care that lowers the cost of medical care for people who meet the income requirements. If you qualify, you can receive low-cost or free medical care.
In some states, people are automatically checked. In other states, you will need to apply for the program.
Medicaid is a federal program that provides health care to people who meet income requirements. Each state oversees its own Medicaid program. Income limits and exact coverage vary by state.
You can find your state’s Medicaid website here.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a federal program that provides health care for children. Like Medicaid, eligibility for the program depends on income level. Each state sets its own income limits and coverage varies.
You can read about CHIP in your state here.
The Hill-Burton program
The Hill-Burton program provides funds to participating hospitals and healthcare facilities in exchange for providing a fixed amount of free or low-cost care to people who meet income requirements.
You will need to register for the Hill-Burton program with the admissions or affairs department of the healthcare facility. You can find a directory of Hill-Burton facilities here.
Aunt Bertha is a database of social and human services that you can search to find programs in your area. This includes programs that can help pay for health care.
You can enter your postal code and a category to find programs that will meet your needs.
Keeping prescription costs low is a great way to lower your overall healthcare costs. Here are some options:
Prescription Drug Manufacturer Programs
The manufacturers of many prescription drugs offer programs to help people pay for their medications. You can often join these programs to get your medications at little or no cost. You may need to meet certain income requirements to qualify.
You can use RXAssist to search a database of manufacturer programs.
GoodRx is a website that will show you the prices of your medications at stores in your area. It can also display prices in online and mail-order pharmacies. By comparing pharmacies, you can find the lowest price.
Plus, GoodRx will even help you find coupons and manufacturer discounts.
Walmart, CVS, and other pharmacies have membership programs that can save you money. By enrolling in these programs, you may have access to discounts on your medications. You can also earn discounts to use on other pharmacy purchases.
Grants to charities can cover your medical expenses. Here are some examples :
The PAN Foundation
The PAN Foundation helps uninsured people who have been diagnosed with a fatal, chronic or rare disease to pay for their medical care. You can see a list of conditions for which the foundation is currently providing assistance on its website.
If you have a condition listed on the site, you can instantly check your eligibility and can then apply online for a grant.
The HealthWell Foundation
The HealthWell Foundation helps uninsured people with certain medical conditions pay for their medical expenses. You can see their list of conditions covered on its website.
If you have a covered condition on the site, you can apply for a grant that will cover your medical expenses.
Good Days is an organization that can help people with chronic and acute illnesses pay for their medical treatment. You can consult the list of conditions covered here.
Help requests are available in English and Spanish.
There are a few additional options you can explore to access lower-cost or free health care. If you haven’t already, consider doing the following:
- Ask the hospital or doctor’s office about installment payment plans.
- Look for programs specific to a health condition you have.
- Subscribe to low-cost health insurance on the health insurance market.
- If you are a veteran, apply for VA benefits.
- Register for clinical tests in your area to help researchers study new treatments.
- Consider telehealth for conditions that do not require in-person care.
You can learn more about accessing medical care without insurance by reading the answers to common questions.
When can I enroll in Medicaid?
If you qualify for Medicaid, you can enroll at any time. Consult your state Medicaid website for income limits and other details.
What if I can’t pay an emergency room bill?
In an emergency, getting care is your number 1 priority. But that can leave you with a bill that’s way over your budget, especially if you don’t have insurance.
However, medical bills are often negotiable. In many cases, you can call the hospital billing department to work out a plan.
If you are unable to work out a plan with the hospital, there are non-profit organizations that can help you request debt forgiveness.
Will medical professionals treat me if I don’t have insurance?
It is illegal for medical professionals to refuse care in an emergency.
This is not the case for non-urgent care. Most healthcare professionals list the payments they accept on their websites.
If private payment is listed, you can get treatment without insurance. If not, it’s best to call ahead to make sure the healthcare professional is accepting patients who don’t have insurance.
You have the possibility of receiving medical care even if you do not have health insurance. There are several sources you can turn to for care, prescriptions, payment assistance, etc. Some programs are limited to certain states or health conditions.
Additionally, you will need to meet income requirements to qualify for some of these programs. If you don’t, options like telehealth and urgent care can help keep costs down.
You can also consider getting affordable insurance through the health insurance marketplace.