Whether you’re looking for health insurance with a pre-existing condition like IC or you’re faced with losing your employer or group coverage, there is hope. President Obama & the US Congress have passed several new laws to help protect consumers and make health insurance and health care more accessible. In this information center, we share some great new resources to help you find the care and coverage you deserve. No one should go without medical care!
Finding Health Insurance
When the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act (aka OBAMACARE) was signed into law to reform the health care industry, many patients rejoiced, particularly those who have been denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. ObamaCare’s goal is to provide affordable health insurance for all US citizens and to reduce the growth in health care spending. Starting OCT 2013, insurance companies will compete to be your healthcare provider via a health insurance exchange pool known as the Affordable Health Insurance Exchange. Some patients may receive free medical care. Most states in the USA have begun implementing new services in preparation for the official January 2014 start date. Learn more about it!
The Healthcare Survival Guide – Excellent Resource
This 72 page book is a must read for anyone who may be losing their health insurance or who simply can’t find coverage. The Healthcare Survival GuideTM: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed and Anyone Else Who Wants to Save Money provides complete resources for finding affordable healthcare coverage and medical care, including the pros and cons of COBRA coverage, comparison-shopping for healthcare plans, lowering — or eliminating — hospital bills and finding low — or free — medical care and medications.
Consumer Assistance Programs by State
Many states offer help to consumers with health insurance problems. The Affordable Care Act improves these services with grants that help states start or strengthen Consumer Assistance Programs (CAPs). The states and territories that applied for these grants have received funds to provide residents direct help with problems or questions about health coverage. If your state does not have a Consumer Assistance Program grant, some state and federal government offices may still be able to help you. The U.S. Department of Labor can answer questions about some employer-provided plans, for example. Your state health insurance regulator may be able to help with individual insurance policy problem. Search for Programs In Your State
Your child or teen may qualify for no-cost or low-cost health insurance coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Many parents may also be eligible. If you or someone in your family needs health coverage, you should apply. To find information about Medicaid and CHIP health coverage programs in your state, go toPrograms in Your State or call 1-877-Kids-Now (1-877-543-7669).
Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP)
In March of 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act—the new health law. The law creates a new program – the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — to make health coverage available to you if you have been denied health insurance by private insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition.Read more or search for options in your state.
Preventive Care and Services
Under the Affordable Care Act, you and your family may be eligible for some important preventive services—which can help you avoid illness and improve your health—at no additional cost to you. Read more
Patient’s Bill of Rights
Insurance companies often leave patients without coverage when they need it the most, causing them to put off needed care, compromising their health and driving up the cost of care when they get it. Too often, insurance companies put insurance company bureaucrats between you and your doctor. The Affordable Care Act cracks down on some of the most egregious practices of the insurance industry while providing the stability and the flexibility that families and businesses need to make the choices that work best for them. Read more!
Finding Affordable or Free Health Care
- Find a Federally Funded Free Heath or Dental Clinic
- National Association of Free Clinics
- Find free care through Hill Burton Free and Reduced Cost Health Care Centers
- Walgreen’s Take Care Clinics – selected areas
- Convenient Care Association – an association of companies that provide health care services in retail-based locations.
Don’t forget that clinical trials also offer access to free medical care and treatment often with the latest therapies under study. Please visit the ICN Clinical Trial Center for more information.
Pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs that may provide your medication at no charge. Learn more about it in the ICN Drug Assistance Center.
Finding Medical Foundations
There are some non-profit foundations that provide “medical grants.” They can be hard to find and you’ll have to dig through the internet to find one that applies to your situation. Facing surgery, ICN member Lisa explored every avenue of support available. She searched the web for resources. She contacted the hospitals in the area looking for one that had a compassionate care program. She spent weeks researching options and eventually found a hospital foundation that covered all of their expenses. When asked, the physician also agreed to donate his surgical time.
Some foundations have wonderful, compassionate histories. United Health Care, for example, is provides grants for medical services that improve the quality of life of children. Other organizations that provide assistance include:
We encourage you to search for foundations in your community, your county and your state as well. Call your local United Way and ask if they know of any. Call your local library’s research desk. Ask the hospital if they know of any outside programs. Just keep asking!!!
Facing Large Bills That You Can’t Pay
Have you received an impossibly large bill that you can’t possibly repay? You are not alone. ICN Member Melissa received a bill for $20,000 resulting from several medical expenses and surgery. She wrote “I don’t have insurance right now and there is NO WAY I can even make monthly payments that will dent it. I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless, hopeless, and to top it off, everything I have (Crohn’s, Endo, IC) is flaring.”
There is hope. Many hospitals and medical clinics offer financial assistance, “charity care” and even full debt relief for low income patients but you must ask about it. They won’t advertise the program but, if you contact the billing department, you may find programs that can help.
As several patients offered in our support forum, the worst thing that you can do is ignore a bill. If you do, they will keep billing you and eventually turn it over to collections where it could impact your credit report. Instead, you must contact the hospital immediately after you receive a bill and explain your financial situation. Offer a payment plan, even if it is just $5 a week and be willing to provide copies of your pay stubs or tax returns. It can pay off handsomely. ICN Support Leader Kadi shared a powerful story.
A friend of mine ended up with a $300,000 bill from an eating disorders unit (she was very very ill with anorexia & nearly died several times). As an elementary private school teacher who barely made enough to live on, there was no way she could pay it back. She sent the hospital her pay stubs & a $50 a month check, which was all she could do. They cancelled her debt about six months into her payments.
Talk With Other Patients
The ICN offers several discussion forums on this topic including: