What options are there for uninsured people needing medical care? Author:    Posted under: Health InsuranceHealth Insurance questions answered

Availing of health insurance might seem like an easy, sensible choice to make. But for millions across America, it is easier said than done. If you’re one of those who simply don’t know what options there are for you, here are some things to consider when looking for coverage:

  • Employment with large companies will almost always guarantee to get access to group insurance. It is better for most people than individual insurance.
  • You can usually get good coverage from health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Find out if there are any in your community. Several have enrollment periods during which applicants are accepted despite the existence of past health problems.
  • If you’ve been rejected due to pre-existing health conditions, some states have Guaranteed Issue individual plans that are made available for those such as you. Some states also have state-funded health insurance options for low-income residents. Check your state’s insurance department for more information.
  • Examine your eligibility for state or local benefits, if you belong in a low-income bracket or are unemployed, like Medicaid for example.
  • If you are currently employed, do not leave your job until you are able to convert your group insurance to an individual insurance. Many group plans have a clause that allows people to convert to individual plans, at a much higher premium. These plans generally have to be applied for within 30 days of leaving your job. Note that this is different from COBRA which allows you to stay with the group insurance even after leaving a job for a limited amount of time.

If you’re a college student with no money to pay for your own health insurance, this may be the least of your concerns. However, health insurance coverage is important for you too in the event that you will need emergency medical assistance. There are several options available to you:

  • Employer-sponsored coverage is for the student under his or her parents’ employer. To qualify, the student will need to be dependent on the parents or guardians (for tax purposes), must be a full-time student and cannot be more than 23 to 25 years old (varies upon the insurance policy).
  • Student health insurance programs or SHIPs are usually offered by colleges and universities at reduced-cost. Availing of catastrophic coverage, with a $1,000.00 or higher lifetime maximum would prove to be beneficial in case of a catastrophic event (such as getting a cancer diagnosis). Make sure that you understand how long you are going to be covered and if the limits of your coverage will still make it sufficient for you to receive the care that you will need.
  • Individual health insurance plans are sometimes offered for students at lower cost. Check for eligibility requirements such as residing in the state for 6 months before you can be covered in their plan. Confirm the scope of their catastrophic coverage and yearly and lifetime limits. Ensure that they do not eliminate coverage based on pre-existing health conditions.

For those who are unable to pay for any type of health insurance coverage, there are little-known options for you to explore:

  • Hill-Burton Funds are from the federal government are received by a few hospitals and non-profit medical facilities to enable them to provide free or low-cost medical services to the needy. These hospitals and facilities choose which services they will provide at no- or low-cost. Medicare and Medicaid services are ineligible for Hill-Burton coverage, but Hill-Burton may provide coverage for services that other government programs don’t. Qualification is based on family size and income. You will need to find out if there is such a facility in your area that for any Hill-Burton commitment for which you may be eligible. Their website should have the information that you need – www.hrsa.gov/hillburton.

This may also be known as “Charity Care” or “Free Hospital Care”. Unfortunately, not many people know about this, and information on this kind of benefit is scarce. Studies have been conducted wherein more often than not hospital personnel were unable to give the information needed when asked about free hospital care. Not all hospitals surveyed had written policies regarding free care.*

In most cases, no signs were posted within the hospital facilities, and numerous phone calls had to be made to get detailed information with regards to free care.**

In August 2010, the National Association of Free Clinics hosted its first one-day free event in Washignton, D.C.  Hundreds took advantage of the event, underscoring the need for free health care.***

It’s important to explore what options are open to you in the event you will need medical attention. Be better prepared for any eventuality by seeking information ahead of time.

* http://www.accessproject.org/adobe/a_healthcare_safety_net_in_tatters.pdf
** http://www.communitycatalyst.org/doc_store/publications/

*** http://washingtonindependent.com/93737/free-health-care-clinic-draws-hundreds-underscores-need


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