In these devastating economic times it can be difficult to find affordable healthcare for you and your family. It has become increasingly important for families to be able to locate free clinics and low cost healthcare since many are struggling to keep their jobs, are unemployed or underemployed and have no health insurance. In this nation employment-sponsored insurance is the rule but Texas is an exception to that rule. Though there is a higher rate of employment, many Texas employers do not provide their employees with health insurance. Texas leads the nation in the percentage of residents with no health insurance.
Though there is much evidence that uninsured and underinsured Texas citizens contribute to higher health costs, our state government has chosen time and time again to cut health care resources and wants to decrease federal aid that would give coverage to many without insurance. The state has its own ideas for solutions to cut health costs that may differ from those of low income residents. Many Austinites may be wondering what can be done to make sure our families can afford the health care that is necessary for our survival and well-being.
Use Available Resources
There is actually a resource available in which many hardworking individuals have done the legwork for you on finding out who accepts Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and which clinics are low cost or accept people with no insurance. The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas has released its updated 2011-2012 Central Texas Healthcare Resource Directory which, according to the website, was “developed to help Central Texas residents access and navigate the healthcare system.” This guide gives an overview of healthcare providers and benefit programs.
Low Cost Clinics
Through a Google search for low cost clinics in Austin you will discover clinics like The Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, The People’s Community Clinic, El Buen Samaritano, CommUnity Care, Seton Community Clinics and the Community Health Centers of Travis County. Most operate on a sliding scale and some may have certain free services.
Dental and Vision
According to “Texas on the Brink,” a report by the Texas Legislative Study Group, Texas is 48th nationally among those states whose citizens have access to dental care. Most workers know that dental insurance is not always covered by employers so it is good to know the names of these sliding scale dental clinics: CommUnity care RBJ Dental Clinic and Manos De Cristo.
Vision insurance is also frequently not covered by employers. Vision USA provides people who 1.do not qualify for government aid or private health care assistance and uninsured and 2. low-income people and their families with basic eye health and vision care services – free of charge.
Often times after patients receive medical care, paying for prescriptions can be yet another hurdle that is encountered. For those who are unemployed or underemployed, the high cost of prescriptions can leave many exasperated and having to choose between healing from illnesses or feeding their families. There are a few prescription assistance programs that are available such as: Together Access, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, the Patient Access Network Foundation, and Rxassist. Some of these non-profits also help those who are insured, such as NeedyMeds which offers a drug discount card. NeedyMeds is a comprehensive website with information on patient assistance programs, listings of free/low cost clinics by state or zip code, government programs and much more.
Austin is also known for its traditional and holistic healers. Many Austinites might think that low cost health care is only accessible to those pursuing western medicine. To the contrary, a search for acupuncturists who are low cost or who accept sliding scale will bring up community acupuncturists such as South Austin Community Acupuncture and the Neighborhood Acupuncture Clinic. The Remedy Healing Arts Center also provides a community clinic with Oriental medicine, naturopathic medicine, and Korean hand healing once a week. Also, if you are seeking herbalists or education about local plants, the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine has sliding scale plant walks and community clinics, herbal consults and massage. Donation-based yoga is also an option if you are willing to do some research.
A Head Start
When searching for affordable health services online it is helpful to use words like “low-cost”, “no cost”, “sliding scale”, “sliding fee scale”, “no insurance” or “underinsured”. For holistic services “donation-based” and “sliding scale” are good search terms. Searching on your own may seem daunting and requires patience. It is refreshing to know that there are organizations that will help patients apply to patient assistance programs, such as the Methodist Healthcare Ministries -Medication Assistance. Many faith-based organizations may also either have a free clinic or help you find services. The search engine on 211texas.org or calling 2-1-1 is also helpful when looking for community clinics, mental health services, or other health services. They can also tell you each facility’s eligibility requirements to be a patient. Affordable care is out there, and now you have a head start.