Despite the government’s attempt to make healthcare more affordable through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many women still struggle to afford the basic costs of their healthcare, according to a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation Women’s Health Survey.
According to the same survey, 11% of women ages 19 to 64 were uninsured as of 2020.
To qualify for state-provided Medicaid coverage, women must have significantly low incomes and qualify in one of the eligibility categories: be pregnant, have children 18 or younger, be a person with a disability or be over 65.
Women who do not have insurance or who are facing additional costs that their insurance does not cover will want to know about the following options for healthcare (physical and mental).
Community health centers fill many gaps in healthcare for uninsured women, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). They provide essential services and typically accept Medicaid or even offer screenings and tests at no cost.
Dr. Noor Ali points out that “government grants and funding have money set aside for healthcare for local governments, and your local health department clinic will have resources for preventive and primary care.”
According to the National Association for Community Health Centers, these facilities serve over 30 million people — many of them in rural areas where there is limited healthcare access. These centers also have played a vital role during the pandemic, providing COVID-19 testing and care.
Depending on the state, some centers provide free essential health screenings including mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Community clinics run by organizations such as Planned Parenthood offer even more services, including free sexually transmitted infection screenings, birth control and abortion services.
Without these centers, many women would either go without healthcare or struggle to pay for their necessary services.
The pandemic revealed that many healthcare issues can be addressed through tele-health, with some people preferring it to attending in-patient appointments, when health allows. To meet this need, many tele-health apps have emerged, such as MDLIVE, Teladoc and Lemonaid Health.
“(These) are low-cost ways to get healthcare from the comfort and safety of your home,” Dr. Noor said. “Anything you would think to go to an urgent care for, use the app first.”
Health Sharing Plans
Those who have a faith- or spiritual-based community may be able to access a “health sharing plan” or “health sharing ministry” plan.
“These are not traditional health insurance,” Dr. Noor said, “(but) a good faith-based option for community pooling of funds for medical expenses.”
How do these work? According to EuphoraHealth, a group of individuals get together and share medical costs through a collective pooling of money. Though they are not traditional insurance, they do qualify for the ACA’s rule of a health benefit.
Each member in a health-sharing plan is responsible for paying a monthly fee, as well as a possible annual fee. Because rates vary depending on the number of people involved and the plans selected, monthly and annual fees can vary widely.
Direct Patient Care Services
In addition to these options, in some cases, Dr. Noor points out, “Some private practices will offer unlimited primary, acute and lab care on a subscription model for their patients.”
With a little research, it may be cheaper for uninsured women to pay a fee-for-service rate to a doctor than to pay the increasingly high deductibles that most health insurance premiums come with, according to Consumer Reports.
Apps such as ClearPrice reveal the actual price of many healthcare services and treatments, allowing users to decide whether they can afford these before obtaining them.
Additionally, more forms of at-home testing have become available at more affordable prices, including tests for STIs, strep throat, Lyme disease, urinary tract infections and, of course, COVID-19.
Another area of health that can be even harder to access for uninsured women is mental healthcare.
In the Pacific Northwest, a site called 211info offers many resources, including support with mental health, housing, shelters, access to food and more.
Other options around the nation include student health centers, federally qualified health centers and a free hotline at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
One of the most costly aspects of healthcare is prescription drugs. Without insurance, the cost of many basic medications can be out of reach for the average person.
As of 2019, one in five Americans could not afford their prescription medications, with women bearing the brunt of that, according to Kaiser Health News. Around 27% of women said they were struggling to afford them, versus 18.9% of men.
The Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) also recommends some strategies, including asking a doctor for free samples; exploring loyalty programs at stores that have pharmacies, such as Target, Walmart or CVS; and applying for state and national drug and disease assistance programs.
New apps such as BuzzRX also help consumers search by ZIP code for the cheapest medication from among 60,000 pharmacies nationwide.
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