According to CNN.com, there are about 7.3 million uninsured children in the United States, which is nearly 10 percent of all of the kids in the country. That means that about 1 in 10 of our readers may be struggling with the problem of not being able to afford health care for their children. Since a lack of health care coverage could result in kids not being able to see the doctor when they’re sick, as well as not being able to get preventative care like vaccine and well-child checkups, it’s important to know what you can do if you don’t have health insurance for your children. Here are some tips:
- Look into CHIP. The government has a program called CHIP, which stands for Children’s Health Insurance Program. Each state runs its own program, but in every state, kids in families who make under a certain dollar amount (currently under about $44,000 for a family of four) qualify for free preventative care. You might have a small co-pay or other fee for sick visits and other types of care, depending on the state and your income. Even if you make more than that, though, it’s worth looking into, because many states have higher limits. Some states offer the program to families making more money at reduced rates, and some states offer it to all children in the state (for a fee), no matter what their families’ income levels. To find out about this, you can call 1-877-KIDS-NOW and you will be connected to the program in your state to ask about eligibility.
- Visit your health department. Many state and county health departments offer free vaccinations to children. In some states, you can even take your insured kids in for free vaccines. Even if you don’t qualify for CHIP, you may qualify for these free vaccines, which will lower your overall health care spending. While you’re there, find out if the health department offers low-cost non-emergency health care to residents.
- Find a walk-in clinic with evening and weekend hours. Going to the emergency room is incredibly expensive, but sometimes families without health insurance find that it’s their only option. A walk-in clinic that is affiliated with a hospital but which bills as a doctor’s office can be very helpful for when your child gets sick. We had to visit one recently on a weekend, and while they did not take my daughter’s health insurance, the total cost wasn’t much more expensive than our emergency room copay (plus we saved hours of time, as we were seen within 15 minutes of arrival). The only issue with a walk-in clinic is that, in most cases, you’ll need to pay the bill that day.
- Find a pharmacy with free or low-cost prescriptions. In our area, Publix offers most antibiotics that a child will receive for free, whether you have insurance or not. When my son had strep throat last year, this was a pleasant surprise! Also, Walmart pharmacy has a list of prescriptions that are under $10 for a one-month supply. Call several different pharmacies in the area, because prices may vary significantly! Also, ask the doctor about whether your child can take the generic form of the medication prescribed; if he doesn’t indicate it on the prescription, the pharmacy will sometimes give you the name brand version of the drug, which can be double or triple the price.
If your kids don’t have health insurance, there may be ways that you can get her the care she needs without spending an arm and a leg. Try some of these methods and save money while keeping your child in good health.