When the regular care options just won’t work for your budget, think about finding a free or low-cost health care provider near you. The downsides can include long lines (or long waits for an appointment), travel time and transportation availability to the clinic location, and a lack of choice in which providers you see. However, it can be a much better and cheaper option than getting non-emergency care in the Emergency Room.
How to find your nearby free and low-cost clinics? FreeClinics.com is one place to start. HelpPayingtheBills.com has a directory of free and low-cost medical clinics, as well as one for free and low-cost dental clinics. NeedHelpPayingBills.com has a directory of community health centers, which includes a few organizations not covered in the directories above. (It’s always best to check a number of sources, since things can change so quickly and one directory may be updated before others.) Finally, check out the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics’s Find A Clinic resource; though it’s not always the easiest to use, it may have some options you haven’t found in other searches.
What if you’ve done these searches, but still haven’t found a nearby clinic? You might need to work the phones or email. Your local United Way should have information on the clinics in your area receiving United Way funding. Another option is to contact your town, city, county, or state Adult Protective Services office; they may have a list of healthcare resources for low-income residents.
If you are a member of a religious denomination, don’t hesitate to call their local or national offices to ask what help might be available; the larger denominations and their charitable arms (Catholic Charities, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the United Methodist Church, and so on) may be good resources even for those from other faith traditions who are comfortable with asking them for help.
Asking nearby medical schools if there are free clinics in which their students participate is another route to finding affordable care. In general, it’s probably best to start with Student Services or a similarly named department; if that option isn’t present, the office of the medical school’s dean should be able to direct you to the appropriate department.
Don’t assume you’re not eligible for free or low-cost care. You may not be, of course, but don’t disqualify yourself before talking with the health care provider. A free and low-cost clinic may also be more open to working out payment plans than a traditional hospital or medical practice.
Wishing you nothing but luck in finding care. Let me know what I’ve missed. I’d love to update this with additional resources.