Those who are unable to afford health insurance have access to free or low-cost health care. The Affordable Care Act has made new provisions and rules which extend the eligibility requirements needed to meet free or low cost health insurance beginning in January 2014. In participating states, the eligibility for Medicaid will be expanded. All adults, even those without dependent children, with an income of up to 133% of the poverty line will qualify. The new law also provides a ‘income disregard’ of up to 5%, making the effective income eligibility limit 138%.

Beginning January 1, 2014, more people than ever before will be able to purchase health insurance through the Healthcare Exchange Program. People with low income or people who are unable to buy health insurance due to budget constraints may be eligible for 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 beginning in October of 2013. Until then, the free or low cost health insurance through Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is available. 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 enrollment in Medicaid or CHIP at even higher income levels.

Some of the current low cost or free health insurance options are discussed below are as follows:

  • Private Insurance: Low cost health insurance can be purchased from different private health insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act has made this process simpler through two of its key features A uniform glossary of terms and a uniform summary of benefits and coverage (SBC). The two things combined, allow consumers to more easily compare the options and benefits of all insurance companies.  The Health Insurance Marketplace – available in October of 2013 – will also assist in this task.
  • Medicaid: Each state operates its own Medicaid program covering lower-income people, families and children, the elderly and those who are permanently disabled. Those who find it difficult to afford private health insurance as well as those with low-income can find medical insurance coverage through the Medicaid program.  Most people under age 65 having individual incomes up to about $15,000 per year will qualify for Medicaid in every state by the beginning of 2014. States are allowed to charge premiums or offer Medicaid on a cost sharing basis. This will vary from state to state.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is designed to provide health insurance coverage to children in families, who are unable to afford private insurance on their own, yet having an income that is too high for them to qualify for Medicaid. Uninsured families with children under the age of 19 will qualify for the CHIP program along with women who are pregnant, children of public employees and meet the income levels of their state. CHIP can come with co-payments or co-sharing payments, this is based on family income and also varies per state.
  • Community Health Centers: Throughout the United States there is a network of community health centers which provide both primary and preventative care to many Americans who cannot afford health insurance through a private insurer. These health centers offer a sliding-scale payment plan which is based on a patient’s income. These centers include hospitals, clinics and some doctor’s offices. Prenatal care, immunizations, prescriptions for medications and general primary care are the most common uses of community health centers. Some centers offer specialized care for mental health treatments and therapies, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. The Department of Health and Human Services website can help you find a Community Health Center.
  • Indian Health Services: The Indian Health Services program, is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for providing federal health services to anyone who is federally recognized as Native American or Alaskan Native.

No matter what your income level, your health is important. Consistent medical examinations are important because they allow your doctor to find medical issues in the early stages so that treatment costs stay low and better yet, you are able to maintain a state of health and wellness.