Anyone without health insurance should find out if they are eligible for a Health Insurance Marketplace plan or Medicaid. Use Healthcare.gov to begin the process of determining your eligibility for any of these programs and costs to you, or call 1-800-318-2596. If you cannot get coverage, the following resources may offer limited assistance for certain services and needs. Please visit our Finding Lower Priced Drugs page for information about programs that help with the cost of medication for MS and other conditions.
In an emergency, do not hesitate to go to the nearest hospital emergency room even if you or your loved one with MS has no health insurance. Hospitals are required by law to stabilize anyone in an emergency, but generally not to provide follow-up care. Anyone without health insurance or the means to pay regular hospital charges should ask about discounted rates, payment plans, and especially their policy regarding care for the uninsured. In addition, you may be eligible for free or reduced cost services from certain hospitals if your income is below the federal poverty line through the Hill Burton Program.
Some neurologists offer lower cost services to uninsured or underinsured individuals. If you already have a relationship with a neurologist, call their office to ask if they offer a financial assistance program to patients who are facing hardship. If you do not already have a neurologist or if your provider does not offer lower cost care, an MS Navigator will be happy to provide you with a referral list.
If your neurologist has prescribed a brain MRI and you are uninsured or cannot afford your share of the cost even with insurance coverage, the MS Association of America’s MRI Institute may be able to help.
Although there is no guarantee that a person without health insurance or the ability to pay can get ongoing care for a chronic illness, government-funded community health centers provide routine and preventive healthcare to anyone in need at low or no cost.
The centers are scattered across the country, have different names, and differ in the types of services they provide. Some only offer very specific services, such as prenatal or mental health care, but they may also be able to refer you to another center offering the care you need. Contact the federal government’s Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) at 888-ASK-HRSA to find a community health center near you.
Cancer screening and other preventive health
Even people without health insurance can and should keep up-to-date with their recommended cancer screenings and tests for serious conditions. The federal healthcare reform law included a requirement that Medicare, Medicaid and most health insurance plans must now pay for recommended preventive health services that have proven effective. These include vaccines, cancer screenings and many other tests for specific diseases and conditions. See the complete list here. Patients cannot be charged for these services when limited to the recommended tests and services only, and when given by an in-network provider.
To learn more about evidence-based preventive health services, see the recommendations of the US Preventive Health Task Force.