Free or Low-Cost Care

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Published: 08th April 2015
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People unable to afford health insurance should not worry as there are many options providing free or low-cost care to them. Affordable care act has made new provisions and rules which will include more and more people for free or low cost health insurance in 2014.

From 2014, more people than ever before will be able to avail affordable health insurance. People with low income or people who are unable to buy health insurance due to budget constraints may be eligible for a free or low-cost plan, or a new kind of tax credit lowering the monthly premiums. There will be different financial assistance programs too. These programs will be directly linked into the Health Insurance Marketplace from October 2013. Till then people can avail free or low cost health insurance through Medicaid or CHIP. Uninsured children up to 18 years with family income of $46,000 per year for a family of four can qualify for Medicaid or CHIP. Some states offer enrolment in Medicaid or CHIP at even higher income.

Different low cost or free health insurance options are discussed below.

Private Insurance Options

One can also avail low cost health insurance through different private health insurance options available. One can search and compare policies to find out which policies offer the lowest premiums, the lowest out-of-pocket costs, and other important features. With creation of Health Insurance Marketplace, this task will be easier and one will find affordable policies easily.


Each state operates its own Medicaid program covering lower-income people, families and children, the elderly and disabled people. People with low income or uninsured people finding it difficult to get an affordable health insurance can avail health insurance through Medicaid. The Social Security Act allows flexibility in Medicaid operation by states by authorizing multiple waivers. This program offers coverage for Long Term Care Services including Institutional Care and Home and Community Based Services. Some states run Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program as one combined program. It aims at providing safe, effective, efficient and quality care, which is equitable and patient-oriented.

Most people under age 65 having individual incomes up to about $15,000 per year will qualify for Medicaid in every state by beginning of 2014. States can charge premiums or offer Medicaid on cost sharing basis. Cost sharing may include copayments, coinsurance, deductibles or other charges. Medicaid is affordable for people enrolled in it. Cost sharing for Medicaid may vary from state to state.


The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides coverage to children in families having higher income to qualify for Medicaid. It offers free or low-cost health insurance coverage. Anyone age 19 or younger livening on their own or anyone with uninsured child is eligible for enrolment in CHIP. Children from families with incomes up to $45,000 per year in most of the states and in some states even higher family income are eligible for it. Pregnant women can also apply for CHIP. They get coverage for prenatal care including lab tests, labor and delivery costs and postnatal care up to 60 days.

The enrolment fees and co-sharing payments are decided on the basis of family’s income. Some states charge monthly premium for health coverage. It differs in each state but cannot be more than 5% of monthly family income each month.

Community Health Centres

A network of community health centres is spread throughout the country to provide preventive and primary care to Americans. They offer free or on a sliding scale based care on the basis of income. The centres include hospitals, health centres, or clinics. They provide prenatal care, baby shots, prescription drugs and general primary care. They also offer specialized care for mental health, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.

People belonging to federally-recognized American Indian or Alaska Native Tribe may avail health care services through the Indian Health Service (IHS) run by federal government.

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