In a previous article, I discussed the medical freebies from the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (typically referred to as “Obamacare”). Some of these new freebies that I have already taken advantage of include some types of free preventive care (I found this out when my doctor actually sent me a reimbursement check of $40 after a preventative care visit!), free screenings, free counseling and free medications/supplements.
Not only are uninsured people missing out on these benefits, but not carrying a bare minimum healthcare policy in 2014 and beyond means that you will most likely be taxed a penalty between $95 and $695 per year. While it is in your best interest to carry some sort of healthcare policy, even if only to avoid paying these fees, there are some ways that you can get discounts and free healthcare if you are uninsured.
Federal Centers that Allow You to Pay What You Can Afford
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers federal health care centers around the United States. Health Centers offer checkups (preventative), sick treatment, pregnancy care, immunizations/checkups for children, dental care, prescription drugs, mental health care and substance abuse care. Payment for services is “what you can afford”, which is based on your income. You can search for a location near you. Also, here is a place where you can search for free medical clinics.
How to Source Free Immunizations and Free Flu Shots
There is a big push for immunizations around the start of school/college, as well as leading up to the flu season. During these two times of years, you can usually find a place advertising free immunizations or free flu shots. For example, here in Houston, there are immunization mobiles that travel from city to city offering free shots. One day while driving home from work last year, I also noticed a local health clinic advertise free immunizations with a huge banner on its outside fence.
If you are a college student, check out the health department on campus, as they may offer flu shots and immunizations for free. If you are employed, then check with your company. I used to work as an environmental investigator for the state of Texas, and each year we had free access to immunization shots (including things like Tetanus).
How to Source Free Dental Care
Oftentimes dental care goes by the wayside when money is tight. If you need a checkup, or potentially have a cavity/other mouth issue, then inquire at your nearest dental school. Students cannot work on patients before they are trained to a certain level, but they are looking for people to practice on (under supervision). You can create a free account on this website to search for free dental care providers near you. You can also start a campaign (or donate to a campaign) for specific dental needs that you have and the cost.
Negotiate with the Health Provider
If you have to go into a full-cost doctor’s office, dentist office, or hospital, then your best option is to negotiate medical care with them. A poll by Harris Interactive found that 61% of people who attempted to negotiate with doctors to lower their medical bills succeeded in doing so. That is good news! I even had success doing this at my dentist. I was having dental work completed, and the co-pay for my appointment was $75. I was able to get that down to $50 just by asking if they could give me a discount. Note that it is easier to get a discount if you can pay in cash.
I just want to reiterate how important having a health insurance policy is, as medical emergencies can pop up at any time, and at any age. For example, I know two people personally whose finances have been forever changed due to having a medical emergency while in-between policies. One person had to have a gall bladder removed, and the other had to have a week-long hospital stay to stabilize. Both are still paying the medical bills from these events, and will be for many years to come. So while there are freebies available to you if you are not insured, the safer bet is to carry a health insurance policy for you and your loved ones.
Are you uninsured? Any plans to get an insurance plan to avoid the penalty in 2014? Have you had a medical emergency while uninsured?