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Office of the Patient Advocate

 

Information for the Uninsured

A new law requires that most Americans get or have health insurance starting January 1, 2014. The new law also made it easier for many people to get health insurance. Find out about the changes on OPA's health care reform page or view more information about the law at www.healthcare.gov.

Get health insurance

Several organizations and websites can help you determine your insurance options and apply for programs.

  • Explore your options through Covered California, a new health insurance marketplace.  You can use this marketplace to buy a health plan. Covered California will also help you find out if you find out if you qualify for low-cost or free health care programs or for tax credits and other assistance. You can get help applying from a Covered California enrollment counselor in your community. Visit www.coveredca.com or call 1-800-300-1506.

  • Contact the California Consumer Assistance Program at 1-888-466-2219 for a referral to free local assistance.
  • Contact a Health Consumer Alliance office for free local assistance. To find the office nearest you, go to www.healthconsumer.org.
  • View a list of health coverage programs and other consumer assistance resources.

Learn more about Choosing the right health plan...

Need care now? Getting services without insurance:

Services for the uninsured

  • Call 9-1-1 or drive to the emergency department at your nearest hospital if you have an emergency. It is an emergency if waiting to get care could be dangerous to your life or a part of your body. By law, a hospital must provide emergency care. You may get a bill. Ask about discounted or charitable hospital care.
  • Get urgent care or primary care services through a community health center, clinic or public hospital. Urgent care is when it's not an emergency, but you need care within a day or two. Primary care includes regular check-ups and appointments for common conditions.

Search for no-cost or low-cost services in your area:

Paying for services

If possible, find out from your doctor or hospital about costs before you get care. Hospitals and providers charge different prices for the same services. Ask about discounts and charity care if you cannot afford to pay.

  • The law says that a hospital must give you a written estimate of hospital charges if you do not have insurance. The hospital must also give you information about financial aid programs and charity care.
  • If you have a low income and are uninsured or underinsured, ask the hospital for an application to get a Fair Price discount. You may qualify for reduced costs under California law,  the Hospital Fair Pricing Act.
  • It is often hard to get exact costs ahead of time. There may be more than one charge for different parts of the care. Sometimes during your appointment or surgery, your doctor will find that different services are needed than what was expected.
  • Every hospital must provide a price list of its 25 most common procedures. You can find these chargemasters on the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development website.
  • Some non-profit clinics and health centers charge on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay.
  • Ask the provider if you can get a discount by paying with cash or with a credit card.
  • Ask the provider if you can make payments. Many providers will work out a payment plan if you can't afford to pay all at once.

Learn more about paying for care and about what to do if you get a bill at

www.hospitalbillhelp.org

 

Resources

Low-Cost/No-Cost Care