When a person has physical or mental health impairments, life can be even more challenging and money can be even tighter. Fortunately, a number of options exist to help people get to the doctor even when they think they may not be able to afford to do so. The good news is that some options are free and a few are offered with a significant discount.

Free Clinics

Free clinics are available without charges or fees, and they are generally open to anyone. Although these clinics are free, it is important to consider a few aspects before committing to a free clinic visit. These clinics can often be overworked, understaffed and underfunded. The wait at a free clinic can be considerably longer than at other doctors’ offices. Also, some may only be able to see a particular patient once over the course of a specified period of time. For instance, they may only see the same patient once a month. It all depends on the clinic, their policies, and their resources. They are truly meant for only individuals who do not have any health insurance or who cannot afford to pay out of pocket.

For people who can afford a low-cost, rather than totally free alternative, it may be a better idea to pursue those options. That way, those who are in dire need of a free clinic can receive better care. For those who are genuinely in need, these clinics try to welcome patients with no strings attached.

Community Health Centers

Community health centers are another invaluable medical resource to thousands of communities across the US. These health centers offer both free and sliding-scale fees based on income. Sliding-scale fees mean that a person will pay a percentage of the cost of their care based on their annual income. If a person makes less than a certain amount, they may not have to pay for any portion of the visit. These health centers provide comprehensive primary care as well as a wide array of additional services, including transportation, health education and more. They are often operated by both private and public nonprofit organizations alongside faith-based and tribal-based organizations.

Mental Health Centers

Mental health is becoming more widely accepted and understood as equally as important as physical health. While treatment for mental health is becoming more widely available, many people still do not seek treatment or do not know where to begin. Most health insurance providers cover at least some mental health services, including a number of therapy visits. If a person runs out of coverage or they do not have insurance, it can still be possible to find free mental health care in most communities or nearby.

Mental health services are typically part of the services offered by community health centers. These are the same centers previously mentioned. A patient’s income will determine if they are required to pay a fee or not. It is even possible to seek out free assistance from professionals who are in training as they are required to complete a certain number of hours under the supervision of a qualified medical professional. And many mental health medical professionals offer a limited number of pro-bono hours each month.

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Get Creative

It is possible that traditional methods of receiving affordable or free healthcare may not exist in your region or state. If you cannot find attainable care in your state based on your needs, it might be time to take a trip to a neighboring state with more friendly healthcare practices or travel to a region that has greater options. Although this can be challenging for individuals with limitations, it may be worth investigating.

Telehealth and telemedicine are being offered and accepted by both healthcare professionals and government agencies at a rapidly increasing rate. This type of video medical care will allow individuals to reach services all over the country. It is important to verify that the medical professional is a fully licensed and state board approved provider before you schedule a call.

It may also be a good idea to look into subscription doctors. Subscription doctors means that patients will pay a flat fee each for unlimited care from your primary physician. For individuals who require regular doctor’s visits, this could result in saving a substantial amount of money. Please note that these subscriptions usually do not include surgeries, trips to specialists or any special care one might require.

Other Income-Based Care

Do not forget that additional income-based healthcare is available in a variety of methods. The Hill-Burton Act of 1946 provided money for hospitals to provide free and low-cost care. As of March 2020, there are 131 medical facilities across the US that can provide services under the Hill-Burton Act. There may not be one in your state, or near enough to you to be helpful, but for patients whose income is below the Federal poverty level, this is an option that could definitely be worth looking into.

Planned Parenthood also offers free and sliding-scale rates for reproductive services for women, including cancer screenings, annual exams, STD testing, birth control and more.

And of course, do not forget about Medicaid and Medicare health insurance programs offered by states and the federal government. These insurance policies are for individuals of a certain age, or who are disabled, or for individuals with limited income.

Transportation Assistance

Many states and cities offer free or discounted transportation for individuals with disabilities and those with low incomes, including dial-a-ride services and paratransit transportation. Some insurance companies also provide free or discounted transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. A number of faith-based organizations and nonprofits also offer free rides to those in need of assistance. And, once again, telehealth services can be an ideal way to skip a physical trip to the doctor altogether.

Financial limitations do not have to completely restrict your access to quality health care. Whether you require physical or mental health services, an option likely exists to meet your needs or at least ease your burden, from free clinics and community health centers to pro-bono therapists and new medical practices. You may have to put in a bit more time and effort to secure affordable care; however, getting that medical care can be essential to your well-being.

This article is presented for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Medical decisions (including whether to start, stop, or modify any treatment plan) are extremely important and should always be made with the advice and counsel of a qualified medical professional.

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