Uninsured? Here's Where to Find Financial Assistance
Shortly after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005 I lost my job and with it, my employer-sponsored health insurance. I enrolled in COBRA to maintain my employer’s insurance, but that coverage lapsed 18 months later, leaving me without any kind of health insurance. I had no way to pay for Copaxone, let alone testing and doctor visits. Without insurance, my neurologist’s office unceremoniously dropped me. “Come back when you have insurance again,” was this staffer’s helpful suggestion. I wasn’t going to get anywhere speaking to her.
Learning about charity clinics
I hung up and phoned them back. This time a different person answered my call, Dana, whose office was in the back so I never saw her when I was there for an appointment. “Call Hope Clinic, your old neurologist is doing pro bono work there,” she told me. “They take uninsured poor patients.” Thus began my odyssey into the world of charity care. If Dana hadn't taken my call, I would never have heard about the clinic or known of the existence of charity clinics for a long time.
I still didn't know the right questions to ask
Despite this information windfall, finding everything I needed still wasn’t easy. I asked questions, but they are most effective when you know the right ones to ask and to whom they should be directed. My own ignorance made me waste time and energy. For example, I didn’t know that I could have started by calling my county’s Department of Health and Human Services and gotten a list of resources from them. And how many people know that the DHS agency's contact information is published in the front of phone books in the Government section? It's right there under our very noses, and yet it is as obscure and elusive as the Holy Grail, jealously guarded by the Knights Templar. I knew it was there but didn't think to connect the dots.
Charity care is still in the shadows
Now, it’s 15 years later, and I’m a lot better informed. That’s what is different from 2005. What hasn’t changed since then is that charity care is still in the shadows as a health care option. It still seems that few MS patients know charity care exists and even fewer health care professionals.
A resource list to find financial assistance
So, to help make your experience easier than it was for me, I’ve compiled a resource list below. It includes financial assistance for prescriptions, doctor appointments, medical procedures, and more.
RXassist is an online service designed to help uninsured patients find programs that offer free or low-cost health care. They include Community Health Centers, Free Clinics, Hospitals, Social Services Agencies, and Insurance choices.
These can be funded by both secular and religious organizations. They can offer free doctor visits, low-cost or free prescriptions, and work with a local hospital to provide free blood work, MRIs, colonoscopies, and more. Catholic hospitals have Care for the Poor programs. Contact your county health department for a list of local charity clinics.
County Health Department
Call or visit your county health department’s online site for a list of local programs.
Many hospitals have a patient assistance program. If your income is low enough, the hospital might write off 100 percent of your bill. Contact the hospital’s billing office and tell them you are having trouble paying the balance. Inquire about financial assistance and how to apply.
These agencies can offer a variety of emergency and support services such as paying a heating bill, covering a rent payment, and more.
- Salvation Army
- United Way
- Churches and other religious institutions
Some pharma companies offer discounted and free drugs to uninsured patients. To find out if you qualify, contact the company that makes your MS drugs. For contact information, click here.
National Council on Aging
Visit the website to learn about their wide range of services for seniors and younger people with disabilities.
Needymed is a prescription assistance tool available here.
Have you found assistance as an uninsured patient? Please share your experience, it might help someone in need.
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