There are an estimated 17 million women living in the United States without health insurance today, a number that is absolutely astounding if it is seriously pondered. For those that do have health insurance, this statistic is absolutely astounding, as the United States has so long been considered to be at the forefront of caring for its citizens and providing opportunities to succeed for all. Anyone living without health insurance, though, recognizes this statistic as a grim reality on a daily basis.
The government does indeed have a number of programs to assist women that are uninsured. Unfortunately, though, even social workers and individuals that work for the government are not aware of all of the options. While it is unclear why some governmental programs receive more exposure than others, it is important to educate yourself on some of the following options.
Everyone has heard of Medicaid and Medicare. Eligibility for Medicaid requires individuals to essentially be “dirt poor,” and many people make more than the required amount, but not enough to get private insurance. Medicaid also offers coverage for individuals that are blind or disabled as well as a number of pregnant women. Medicare requires women to be age 65 or older, or have one of a select group of disabilities to be eligible.
Aside from these well-known programs, most (if not all) states now offer a health insurance program for individuals and families that lack the funds to pay for private insurance but make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Waiting lists may, however, be long, but a woman cannot be penalized for applying.
The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides free or low cost mammograms and pap smears for women under age 39 who otherwise cannot afford them. In addition, local cancer societies also often offer these screenings, as well as some health centers. YWCAs are focused on improving the lives of women and children, and as such often offer programs as well to help women in need.
For American Indians and Alaskan Natives, there is the Indian Health Service, which also offers health insurance. Women that are pregnant with an eligible Indian’s child may be eligible for coverage as well through this program.
Free clinics are available in most counties, and are usually staffed with medical professionals who volunteer their time to such a worthy cause. While these are wonderful endeavors with good intentions, these are all too often swamped with patients, making it difficult to get an appointment.
Some physicians will work with patients that do not have health insurance, particularly any that they have served for a long period of time. A few even have been known to waive their physician fees for visits and procedures for some patients. It would certainly not hurt to at least ask your physician about this, but it is best to directly ask the physician. A secretary generally will not even pass on a message, though a nurse that is familiar with a woman might.