If you can’t get to the doctor because you are homebound or penniless or lack transportation or lack insurance or can’t afford co-pays, don’t give up hope. Just get scrappy.
If you are willing to be a little creative and persistent, there may be a way:
Try looking into free clinics in your area. If you are not eligible for your local free clinic or there is no clinic near you, you can call the nearest one ask them if there are other services available in your area.
Try contacting Federally Qualified Health Centers in your area.
Try contacting all local hospitals and ask if any of them have financial aid or charity care programs. These are only available in some areas. Important: In most cases, you must apply for these programs BEFORE you go to the hospital. It takes about a month to get approved. I have met people who have gotten expensive surgeries and procedures completely free this way.
You can also consider moving to a different area, or living with relatives or friends in a different state and changing your residency. This is a pretty radical solution, but if you need a life-saving procedure or operation, it is worth considering.
“I was in so much pain every day that I could not work and I had no way to pay for medical care. After I got evicted, I moved across the state and slept on a friend’s couch. The first day I arrived, I applied for a financial aid program at the local hospital. Two months later, I got a $15,000 surgery, plus expensive eczema medications, plus free physical therapy twice a week. Getting evicted is the best thing that ever happened to me.” – VN
If you applied for Medicaid and got turned down, don’t give up just yet. Here are about ten more ways you can qualify for medicaid that you probably didn’t know about.
Medicaid – Try again!
If you never applied for Medicaid because you are 100% certain you are not eligible, don’t be so sure. Once again, there are some little-known ways to qualify for Medicaid when you think you won’t.
Medicaid – Seriously, Keep Trying!
Do not give up until you have read every sentence on this page: How to Respond When You Are Told You Can’t Get Medicaid
If you are on Medicare but can’t afford the co-pays, look into a programs that pay your Medicare co-pays.
Other Insurance Co-Pays
If you are on a different form of health insurance and can’t afford the co-pays or deductibles, in some states you can apply for Medicaid and Medicaid will cover these costs. Also check this list of How To Be Broke & Medicated for a list of nonprofit programs that will sometimes pay co-pays.
If you can’t get to the doctor because you are homebound or unable to travel, try these ideas for home medical care. (scroll down to section on doctors).
Some states have health insurance programs for people who have disabilities and are working. Quite honestly, I do not know which states have these programs, or how to find them. If someone knows more, please post below. As an example, here is the one in Massachusetts. You do not have to be on Social Security, they can assess you for disability through their own process. In some states you must work a certain amount (for example, ten hours per week), but other states have no minimum (you could work ten minutes per week!). Check out How Pansy Got on Health Insurance Through a Program for Working People with Disabilities
Meds & Supplements
If you are looking for ways to pay for prescriptions and supplements, check out these ways to get free or discounted meds.
Some laboratories have financial aid programs that will allow you to get bloodwork and other tests for free! Here’s an example of one from Quest Labs.
Due to some special laws and loopholes, these Hill Burton facilities are obligated to provide free or low-cost medical care whether they want to or not! See if there is a program in your area. Hint: The free care won’t be automatic. You must contact them and request an application and enroll in the financial aid program.
Make a Better Estimate
When you apply for insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace, you are asked to estimate your income in the upcoming year. Many people don’t know what their income will be. In this case, the instructions say, “Just do your best to make a realistic estimate.”
A lot of people think: “I’ll just guess really low. Low is good!” Sounds logical, but it doesn’t always work that way. Low can be bad! Some states did not expand Medicaid, so if you guess to low, you can’t get any insurance at all.
If this happened to you, it is helpful to know the minimum income requirements for Healthcare Marketplace. (Scroll down for the chart. Boy did I have to look forever for this link. They do not like to give you this information. These numbers are for 2016, may be a little higher now).
If you have outstanding bills and want to try to get them reduced, check out: How I Cut My Medical Bills By 80%.
More About Medical Bills
If you are poor or on disability, you should know that medical debt collectors canNOT take any of your Social Security money under any circumstances… unless you decide to give it to them. Some people decide to give it to them, and some people chose not to. Learn more about: How To Deal with Disability & Debt
If you are applying for disability, you can make a “dire need request” to Social Security. This won’t get you a doctor, but it could speed up your application. After you are approved, then you will have insurance! If you need critical or life-saving medical care that you cannot afford, include this in your dire need request.
If you don’t have transportation to get to the doctor, you can try these ideas for free transportation.
Long Distance Transport
Get the hell out of Texas
Texas is a tough place to get healthcare. It’s possible, but seems to be harder than other states. If you relocating is a possibility, it may be worth considering.
Help Navigating All of This
The Patient Advocate Foundation provides free case management services
Social Security disability automatically comes with Medicaid or Medicare or both. Sometimes there is a waiting period for Medicare. If you are in the waiting period, you can apply for Medicaid while waiting.
Disability – Think again!
If you think you are not eligible to apply for disability, you may be right, or you may be wrong. Every now and then I meet someone who is wrong about this, and that is a happy day. Please double check: Fifteen Ways to Qualify for Disability After You Were Told You Don’t Qualify for Disability
If you are already applying for disability, you will automatically get disability after you are approved. But that will be three years from now! Or will it? How to Greatly Improve Your Chances of Getting Approved Quicker
If you try everything you can and you STILL can’t get to the doctor, Social Security will accept that you have a good reason. However, you have got to let Social Security know your reason for not going to the doctor.
You also may find some leads on the Need Help Paying Bills site. Slightly outdated and some programs no longer exist, but overall a great site.
Updated August 2017. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 💐