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. They are required by law to stabilize anyone in an emergency, but generally not to provide follow-up care. Anyone without health insurance in this situation should ask about discounted rates, payment plans, and especially their policy regarding care for the uninsured. Hospital and clinic social workers or billing departments can often help identify sources of low or no-cost care in their communities, and help with Medicaid or other program applications.
Although there is no guarantee that a person without health insurance or the ability to pay can get ongoing care for a chronic illness, community health centers funded by charitable contributions and the government may offer some help. They provide routine and preventive health care 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.
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. Find out if there are any Hill-Burton facilities near you by calling 1-800-344-4687 or visiting Hill-Burton online.
Even people without health insurance could and should keep up-to-date with their recommended cancer screenings and tests for serious conditions. Community cancer centers typically offer cancer screenings for free or on a sliding scale basis, and others may help prevent or identify high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and more. Your local newspaper, state health department or medical society will usually know when and where these services or health fairs are scheduled in your community.
The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program offers breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services at no cost to eligible individuals in all 50 states. Visit the NBCCEDP and click on your state to find providers where you live.