14 Relief Programs To Consider When You’re Behind on Bills

Young family with baby worried about family budget and high taxes and bills.
ArtistGNDphotography / Getty Images

Especially in the wake of a pandemic, being unable to pay bills is a reality that many Americans face. Whether it be once in a while, or an unfortunate recurrence, sometimes payments cannot be made.

This is especially harmful when it comes to healthcare. Not being able to afford medicine and service can be a life or death situation. Fortunately, there are public and private programs that people can turn to when they need some extra support.

Prescriptions and Medical Bills

The prospect of not being able to pay for your medicine is a scary one — thankfully, there are programs that can help.

1. Prescription Manufacturers

If a prescription is too expensive, sometimes the manufacturers themselves will offer coupons or rebates to save money. Companies like GoodRx and WellRx can help you locate those coupons so you don’t have to pay full price.

You can also try visiting the prescription manufacturer’s website to see if they offer any coupons or rebates that you can scan at the pharmacy. The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company is another option for big discounts on life-saving drugs.

2. State Agencies and Local Healthcare Centers 

Most likely, there are organizations local to you that specialize in helping residents get medicine for cheap or free.

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Check your county’s health department website to see if there are patient assistance programs that can help negotiate the price of your prescriptions for you. You can also find resources there to obtain care and medicine if you don’t have insurance. 

3. Medicare

Social Security manages the enrollment program for Medicare. Generally, Medicare is available for people who are 65 or older, people with disabilities and people with End Stage Renal Disease.

You can choose a plan within Medicare that offers additional drug coverage, so you won’t pay as much for medicine. Medicare also offers access to pharmaceutical assistance programs that can bring the cost of prescriptions down.

In addition, you can apply to Extra Help, a program that caters to low income residents to ensure you never pay more than $10.35 for a prescription. The Medicare Savings Program can also help pay for your monthly Medicare premium, if you qualify for assistance. 

4. Medicaid and CHIP

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are medical programs available to people and their children primarily based on income. Medicaid offers a number of programs including the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program — which also serves Medicare recipients — that help make medicine more affordable and accessible.

Both Medicaid and CHIP provide help to pay off medical bills, as well. 

5. Health Insurance Marketplace

If you don’t have access to insurance, you can visit Healthcare.gov — also known as the health insurance marketplace — to choose a plan to purchase. Depending on your income and state, you may qualify for discounted plans so your monthly cost isn’t so high.

6. Community Clinics

Some clinics will charge little or nothing to patients depending on their income. You can be treated for medical, dental and vision purposes in addition to receiving free or discounted prescriptions. Check here to find a free clinic near you based on your state. 

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7. Local Hospital Charity Care

Some hospitals and healthcare facilities will offer free or discounted care to those who cannot afford to pay for medical care. This is known as charity care.

Most of the time, you’ll need to apply before seeking care. Qualifications and processes differ by state.


Keeping the lights on can be a struggle, but these organizations can help.

8. Lifeline

Lifeline is a federal program that helps decrease the cost of phone and internet services for those who can’t afford the full price. You can check lifelinesupport.org to see if you qualify and how to apply for assistance.

9. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

LIHEAP helps eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization and energy-related home repairs. If you’re already enrolled in SNAP or TANF, you might be automatically eligible. Find more eligibility info here

10. Local Social Service Agencies and Nonprofits

Nonprofits and other organizations near you might offer programs that can lower your utility bills based on how much you make. Check NeedHelpPayingBills.com to find agencies near you that might be of service. 

General Assistance

Setbacks happen and can have a variety of ramifications, so don’t be ashamed to reach out for help.

11. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF, also known as Welfare, helps families get back on their feet after experiencing difficult situations. Each state has its own set of qualifications for TANF. If you do qualify, you can get access to food, housing, utilities assistance, child care and job training.

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You can contact your nearest TANF office here

Rent and Housing Costs

Keeping a roof over your head is second only to food and water. Take a look at these options if you’re struggling to afford housing.

12. Emergency Rental Assistance for Renters and Landlords

The U.S. Department of Treasury has established a program that helps renters pay utilities and rent if they fall on hard times. Your qualifications are based on what state you live in. You can find out more information on how to qualify here

13. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

HUD offers assistance to those who are having issues affording housing. HUD offers counselors who can help you if you’re struggling to make rent or mortgage payments. You can talk to a HUD housing counselor by calling (800) 569-4287 or visiting this website.

HUD’s Find Shelter tool can also help if you’re in immediate need of housing, food, medical care or clothing.

14. Call 211

If you need immediate housing assistance, you can dial 211. This line will also give you information on finding food and job training if you’re in need. 

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