Help for People Without Health Insurance

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If you don’t have health insurance, there are programs that may be able to help you get coverage or help you pay for treatment costs. Below are some of the most well-known programs and organizations. You may need to meet certain age or income requirements to enroll in some of these programs. Talk to your doctor's office, health insurance company, or hospital social worker to learn about local programs in your area that may be able to help.

Medicaid is a federal government program that pays for medical care for people whose income and assets are at or below a certain level. Medicaid programs are administered by the states and each state has its own eligibility guidelines. Not all health care providers accept Medicaid. All state Medicaid programs plus the District of Columbia cover screening mammograms. Your state’s Medicaid offices should be able to give you screening coverage information.

Also, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have chosen to provide Medicaid coverage for all women diagnosed with breast cancer through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (discussed in the next section) so they can be treated. States have different age, income, and other requirements that women must meet to qualify for treatment through Medicaid.

States are offering breast cancer screening to low-income, uninsured women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Women must meet age and income eligibility requirements to participate in the program.

In 2000, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act was passed, giving states the option to offer women in the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program access to treatment through Medicaid. Still, according to a 2007 survey done by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, some states can refuse to cover treatment if a woman was screened through a provider that isn't part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Due to budget limitations, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program can't screen all low-income, uninsured women, so a number of women are screened at other centers each year. This may mean that these women may be denied Medicaid coverage for breast cancer treatment. If you want to be sure you are covered through Medicaid, talk to your doctor and your screening center to find out if the center is part of the federal program.

Medicare is a federal government program funded by the Social Security Administration. Medicare offers health insurance to people who meet the eligibility requirements. In most cases, you're eligible for Medicare if you're 65 or older or are disabled at any age and have been collecting Social Security benefits for 2 years.

Some states offer state-subsidized health insurance plans for low-income residents. Contact your state's Department of Insurance office for more information.

Selected hospitals and other nonprofit medical facilities get money from the federal government to provide free or lower-cost services to people who can't pay. Ask your doctor or hospital social worker if any facilities in your area participate in this program.

Health insurance risk pools are special state programs that offer insurance to people who are "medically uninsurable." This means you can buy coverage even if you’ve been turned down because of a medical condition. You do have to pay for the insurance, but some states have lower rates for people with lower incomes. Contact your state Department of Insurance for more information.

Medicine assistance programs, listed on our Tips to Lower Medicine Costs page, can help pay for your medicines or allow you to buy them at a reduced cost.

The resources listed in this section are based in the United States and the regulations mentioned are U.S. regulations. Other countries may have different laws regulating insurance coverage and hospital operations. If you live outside the United States, ask your doctor about resources in your country.

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