How Can I Get Free or Low Cost Healthcare and/or Health Insurance?
Free or low-cost healthcare options include marketplace insurance with cost assistance, V.A., Medicaid/CHIP, and Medicare. Sometimes people qualify for medical care because of membership in other groups or they can use clinics.
TIP: If you don’t find what you are looking for, see this healthcare information guide for other options for free or low cost healthcare and health insurance.
NOTE: Most of the above options are options for low-cost healthcare. With that in mind, individuals and families with low-incomes may qualifies for free health insurance through Medicaid/CHIP (this depends on state-specific rules).
How to Find Out if You Qualify For Free HealthCare
To see if you are eligible for Affordable Care Act assistance, apply at Healthcare.gov. You will be redirected to Medicaid/CHIP if it is the best program for you.
To enroll in a marketplace plan that qualifies for cost assistance requires you to enroll during open enrollment. Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) for 2018 health plans begins November 1st, 2017, and runs through December 15th, 2017 in most states. A few states have extended it or might still extend it. Please start early. Enrolling and choosing a plan can take some time.
If you are a veteran, you can go to Vets.gov to sign up for the V.A. System online or find in-person help.
Medicaid and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) have income limits. You can enroll at any time if you qualify. To apply for Medicaid, either go to the website Medicaid.gov, use the Contact your State with Questions page of the site, or call 877-267-2323 or TTY 866-226-1819 to be directed to your local office.
If you have had a disability recognized by Social Security for two years, you may be eligible for Medicare as well as Medicaid. If your disability was caused or made worse because of your military service, you may be able to get benefits through the V.A. System. Social Security and Medicare benefits are based on your total income during a year of work, divided into four quarters. Information may be found on the Social Security website. Note you may qualify for benefits as a spouse, but only after your spouse reaches 65 and they qualify.
If you are over 65 or have certain disabilities such as ALS or end stage renal disease, you may be eligible for Medicare. Medicare.gov will have the information and contacts you need. Your Medicare Open Enrollment period begins 3 months before you turn 65, includes your birth month and ends 3 months after you turn 65. Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) is free if you are over 65 and eligible for retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board.
If you are not eligible for any of these programs, you can go to a library and use a computer to look up local information. Try the Health Resources and Services Administration website. You can also search these keywords on any web browser.
- State-based charities
- Religious charities
- Free or sliding-scale clinics
- Your state’s Health and Human Services Department
- Services for the homeless
- There is a 211 emergency helpline in most states
- Some hospitals run free or low-cost clinics. Ask to talk to a patient representative about your issues.
If you have a life-threatening emergency, hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients are required to treat you. However, they will also bill you, and unpaid bills will be subject to collection attempts.
NOTE: As noted above, another option for free healthcare is local charities. This isn’t an option for everyone, but some communities have local charities that help the medically needy (some also help with medical debt and bills). This can be a good option for those who don’t qualify for the options noted above.