Uninsured and underinsured people may be able to reduce their health-care costs if they know where to get help, the experts say. Income limits and other restrictions may apply:
Contact your hospital billing department. Most offer charity care, installment-payment plans and help signing up for Medicaid and other programs.
Contact your doctor's office. Many accept installment payments. Some will negotiate rates or provide free care. Many can provide free drug samples.
Consider health clinics. Several organizations provide medical services for free or on a sliding-fee scale, including the Cincinnati Public Health Department, (513) 357-7200; the Cincinnati Health Network, (513) 961-0600; Southern Ohio Health Services Network, (513) 576-7700; Crossroad Health Center, (513) 381-2247; and the FreeStore/FoodBank Health Resource Center, (513) 357-4602.
In Northern Kentucky, HealthPoint Family Care offers four medical clinics and other support services. Call (859) 655-6100. Or call Kentucky Physicians Care at (800) 633-8100 for a list of doctors providing charity care.
In Indiana, low-cost clinics include the Rising Sun Medical Center, (812) 438-2555.
Apply for Healthy Start. This program provides medical coverage for children whose families meet income limits. In Ohio, applications can be found online at http://jfs.ohio.gov/ohp/consumers/application.stm or call (614) 466-6282
In Kentucky, call the state Cabinet for Health Services at (502) 564-2154 or go online to www.chs.ky.gov.
In Indiana, call (800) 889-9949 or go online to www.healthcareforhoosiers.com
Ask about the Hamilton County indigent care levy. Applies only to county residents who earn up to 200 percent of poverty and who do not qualify for support under other programs. The levy covers care only at University Hospital and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The levy does not cover doctor bills. Hospitals have application forms.
Ask about Medicare assistance programs. For low-income seniors, these state-run programs help cover Medicare deductibles and co-payments, much like private Medicare supplemental plans. In Ohio, call (614) 466-6282 or go online to http://jfs.ohio.gov/ohp/consumers/application.stm.
In Kentucky, call the Office of Aging Services, state health insurance assistance, (877) 293-7447
In Indiana, check accessIndiana at www.in.gov/ai/assistance. Or call the state Family and Social Services Administration at (317) 233-4454.
Sign up for drug discount cards. The federal Medicare program recently started a drug discount card program. Information: (800) 633-4227 or www.Medicare.gov. Some state programs also offer help with medication costs, including Ohio's Golden Buckeye Card at (614) 466-5500 or www.goldenbuckeye.com; and Indiana's HoosierRx program at (866) 267-4679 or www.in.gov/fssa/hoosierrx. Kentucky does not offer a similar card.
Look for charity help. For referrals to numerous health, mental health, substance abuse and other support programs, call United Way 211 or (513) 721-7900.
In Northern Kentucky, low-cost prescription drugs can be obtained through the St. Vincent dePaul Community Pharmacy. Information: (859) 341-6995
Most large drug companies also provide some free medications to people who meet income limits.
Need help filling out forms or dealing with hospitals and doctors? Contact the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati's Health Advocacy Center, (513) 362-2870, ext. 240 or www.lascinti.org.
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