Health Insurance: How Do I Obtain Charity Care?

An Option for the Uninsured

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Millions of Americans go without health insurance coverage ever year. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over 45 million Americans under the age of 65 go without health care coverage annually.

Unfortunately, those without health insurance will have a much more difficult time finding timely and affordable treatment for health issues, and overall medical care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, it is estimated that 20,000 uninsured adults die prematurely annually due to timely treatment being unavailable.

Being uninsured severely limits an individual’s ability to obtain timely and affordable medical care. However, uninsured individuals still have several options when seeking medical care.

Options for the Uninsured

Emergency rooms: Passed in 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act requires emergency rooms across the United States to treat any and everyone who walks through the door, regardless of their health care plan or their ability to pay. Thus, the ER can be visited for free health care, although such visits should be saved for emergencies.

Free clinics: Free clinics provide health care to local low-income residents and needy individuals. They are available in communities and neighborhoods throughout the United States. These clinics can charge reduced rates or provide free care for patients with certain minor conditions. The fees at a free clinic typically depend on an individual’s income.

Health insurance coverage is not taken into account at free clinics, and thus they are a solid option for the uninsured.

Charity care: As the name suggests, charity care is just that; charity. Charity care, also common referred to as uncompensated health care, is health care provided for free, or at a reduced cost.

Many charity care don't have an income. Charity care must be applied for, and it is only available at participating hospitals and similar healthcare facilities.

How to obtain charity care is a common question among uninsured individuals.

Question: How Do I Obtain Charity Care?

Answer: One of the best options available to the uninsured individuals is charity care. For some patients, this may be the only way they can obtain the care they need, but finding charity care can be a real challenge.

Most states, like New Jersey, have a government agency in charge of charity care, but patients are often unaware of it. Your best bet for obtaining charity care is to contact your hospital. Hospitals typically have all the information you need to apply for and obtain charity care, including eligibility information and the appropriate forms.

Charity care programs typically require that the applicant be ineligible for any type of health insurance coverage, including Medicaid. Patients may need to provide financial information demonstrating that they are unable to pay.