Finding Help With Medical Bills for Low Income People: Where to Start
The information in this article is current as of November 23, 2021.
For too many American families, health care is a basic need that goes unmet. The American Medical Association acknowledges that American health care is in crisis, a situation that hurts the health and well-being of millions.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “poverty can significantly impact health and health outcomes,” a pattern that plays out over generations. The inability to access preventative care leads to avoidable problems down the road, a situation that results in reduced well-being and eventually lifespan.
Though two bills have been introduced in Congress that would provide some protection to people with medical debt, neither bill has passed as of November 2021. As a result, access to health care remains a continuing challenge for the 37.2 million people living in poverty as of 2020.
This article aims to provide low-income families and individuals with a look at resources that may be available both before and after you need them. We’ll show you where to get help with medical care and paying medical bills on a low income.
Many of these resources are preventative, meaning that the time to access them is before you incur medical charges.
Our goal is that by the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll have enough information to make informed decisions about your next steps and how you can access support for your situation.
Let’s get going!
Help With Medical Bills For Low-Income Families From Federal Agencies
The first group of organizations that help with medical bills for low-income households and individuals is federal government agencies. Most people are familiar with some of the names of these programs. But, you may not be familiar with all of the services they provide.
Let’s take a look a more detailed look at them below.
When most people hear Medicare, they immediately think of healthcare for seniors. What most people don’t know, however, is that Medicare also provides benefits to households dealing with disabilities.
The most popular components of Medicare coverage are Medicare parts A, B, and D. Each part provides for other medical care and services.
Medicare Part A deals with home health and hospice care. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t deal with assistance for low-income families.
The parts of Medicare that we’re concerned with are parts B and D. Medicare Part B can be used for medical equipment, supplies, outpatient care, and some doctor’s services. For example, families who need wheelchairs, chairlifts, and other equipment to care for disabled family members can leverage the services provided in Medicare Part B.
Medicare Part D is responsible for prescription drug coverage.
To enroll, you must qualify. If you qualify and enroll successfully in Medicare, you can choose which parts to participate in. For example, most Medicare plans have parts A and B. But some options will include Part D.
Extra Help is an extension of Medicare that most people don’t know about. It acts as a supplement to Medicare Part D.
Extra Help provides low-income families with extra financial assistance for prescription drugs. However, if you have a traditional Medicare plan, you may not be eligible for Extra Help. This is because traditional Medicare plans only cover Part A and Part B.
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income is funded by the funds of the U.S. Government’s Social Security program. This program, in turn, is funded by the U.S. Treasury.
A lot of Americans confuse the SSI benefit with Social Security. SSI is different, though, because SSI isn’t employment-based.
Individuals must be legal residents of the U.S., over 65, disabled, or blind to qualify for this financial assistance.
SSI assistance is done through payments made to the recipients. These payments are made every month, on the first of the month. In certain states, recipients will also receive Medicaid in addition to their SSI payments.
Medicaid is directly involved in providing healthcare benefits to low-income families. This program is among the largest insurers in the U.S., with over 82 million Americans dependent on Medicaid and CHIP to access primary care.
The eligibility for Medicaid coverage varies from state to state. There are a few factors that affect whether a family will qualify or not. When reviewing your application, Medicaid will take your household size, age, income, and disability into account.
If you’re interested in seeing if you qualify, you can apply through your local state Medicaid agency.
Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP)
CHIP is designed to assist families that don’t qualify for Medicaid. They may make too much income to qualify for the Medicaid program but not enough to afford traditional private health insurance.
The financial resources provided by CHIP are specifically designated for families with children who have medical issues. It helps them cover the cost of their children’s medical needs.
Much like Medicaid, the CHIP qualification requirements vary from state to state. Individuals can apply for CHIP through their local State Medicaid program.
The ACA Marketplace
The Affordable Care Act aims to make healthcare affordable for all Americans. One of the most significant features of that legislation is the healthcare marketplace.
The marketplace is an online portal where Americans can shop for their healthcare coverage at reduced rates. Plans are cheaper than private health insurance because Americans receive tax rebates for their premiums based on their income level.
The program aims to provide insurance coverage to those who have previously gone without coverage. The amount of subsidy is slated to increase with the rollout of new Build Back Better legislation. The reasons Americans choose to go without coverage can vary. But one main reason is that these Americans aren’t eligible for coverage through their employer.
To qualify to purchase coverage from the Healthcare Marketplace, applicants must live in the United States, be a U.S. citizen or national or be lawfully present. In addition, they must not be incarcerated at the time of application.
Help With Medical Bills For Low-Income Families from Private Organizations
The Federal government does a great job of providing resources for low-income families who need help with medical expenses. But, unfortunately, they don’t cover everyone who needs coverage. Fortunately, several private organizations help to provide coverage for Americans.
These organizations come through and help low-income families that would otherwise fall through the cracks.
The HealthWell Foundation
The HealthWell Foundation has a very targeted mission within American healthcare. Their goal is to provide financial assistance and improved access to care to under-insured Americans dealing with chronic or life-altering illnesses.
The financial assistance provided by the HealthWell Foundation can be used for a wide variety of medical expenses. For example, they help with prescription drugs, travel costs, pediatric treatment costs, coinsurance, premium payments, and health insurance deductibles. In 2019, the HealthWell foundation awarded $610 million in grant money to families needing medical care.
Resources for medical expenses are awarded for specific diseases. You can visit the HealthWell Foundation online and apply for a specific disease fund. If a disease you or a family member are dealing with isn’t listed, you can recommend opening a disease fund for that particular illness.
Find Help is an online database helping low-income individuals and families search more easily for social programs. Think of it as a “craigslist” for social and human services.
The database provides Americans with access to discounted services for food, job training, medical care, and more. Users can search the assistance available in their area by simply typing their zip code into FindHelp’s search bar. For example, certain areas have returned close to 300 results for the search term “help pay for healthcare.”
NeedyMeds is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to get necessary medications into the hands of low-income individuals and families. They don’t provide the funding themselves, but they are an information source.
The organization has compiled a directory of programs people can use to find financial resources to help them afford their prescription drugs. The platform is easy to use, and individuals can search by drug name or their diagnosis.
But NeedyMeds does more than provide information on access to medication. Users can search their resources to find programs to assist with medical transportation, find low-cost clinics, and find government healthcare programs.
RxAssist is an online directory of PAPs or Patient Assistance Programs. Pharmaceutical companies run these free programs to help provide medication to people who can’t afford it otherwise. Users can log on to their Patient Help portal to see if their medications are available.
Getting You the Help You Need
As you can see, help with medical bills for low-income families isn’t as far away as you might think. Both the federal government and private businesses realize a need for affordable medical services in this country, and both sectors of the economy have some resources available for Americans who need help.
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