While the exact number of Americans without health insurance is debatable, between the uninsured and the underinsured, the number is well above 10 million and possibly as high as 75 million. That's quite a few of us who may not have the ability to pay for medical care, or who may choose to forgo medical care because of cost.
For most parents, though, it's one thing to scrimp on your own medical care, but entirely another to scrimp on your child's. However, you don't necessarily have to stretch your budget to its breaking point to get your child the medical care they need. Here are some ideas that might help.
1. Store Clinics
Many stores, including grocery stores, drug stores, and even some Wal-Marts and Targets, now have clinics inside. These will usually charge you a flat fee for the care they offer, though some of them will bill your insurance if you have it. The fee normally runs between $50 and $100 , depending on where you live.
These clinics are best for everyday health issues. They can quickly and easily diagnose things like ear infections and sinus infections and get your child the antibiotics they need to get better. Most of them have a list of conditions they will not see, so it's best to familiarize yourself before you go. In addition, some of these clinics will not see children under 1 year of age.
2. State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
This program offers medical insurance to children who do not have coverage through an employer sponsored plan. Thus, your children could have health insurance even if you do not. Generally, the fees for this coverage are extremely low and based somewhat on your income.
These programs vary some from state to state, and can be confusing to apply for. However, there are usually hotlines you can call for help, and the representatives, by and large, truly care for children. You will have to qualify based on income, too.
Most families with SCHIP coverage are happy with the care their children receive. The program is known for offering high quality coverage to kids who need it, at a relatively low cost to their families.
3. Free or Low-Cost Clinics
Most counties have low-cost clinics where you and your children can receive care. Once again, these are usually good options for standard health issues and can be more difficult to work with if you have an ongoing condition or something more difficult going on.
People who've used these clinics often complain about long wait times and abrupt doctors. However, the quality of care they offer is relatively high overall, and they have a wider array of services than most store clinics. You can usually get blood work done through a free clinic, as well as other tests, and you can get physicals even if you're not feeling ill.
With these three options at your disposal, you don't need to despair of getting your child the medical care he or she needs. Sometimes, the process of finding a place to go, getting an appointment, and taking your child in can feel overwhelming. It's all worth it, though, when you have a healthy, happy kid again.
This post was included in the latest Carnival of Financial Planning.