When you think of professional health care, you probably think of something that is incredibly expensive and, often times, out of reach of the people who need it the most.
While the above can certainly turn out to be true, it’s also true that alternatives to traditional, expensive health care do exist.
These include free clinics, which are often staffed by medical and pharmaceutical students and volunteers. Such clinics can vary in terms of who they’ll treat, what services they’ll offer, and how many resources they have, but one thing is for sure: all of them play an important role in their communities and help others in the most important ways.
Not only do these clinics typically offer general medical care, they also tend to offer free medications and help people find access to medications they need but couldn’t otherwise afford. Many also partner with and refer people to various resources in their communities.
Some free clinics will treat anyone who walks through their doors, while others require people to be underneath a certain income level or have other demonstrated financial needs. No matter how a clinic operates, though, it can be extremely useful and a real asset to any community.
How to Qualify for Help from a Free Clinic
If you think that you could benefit from a free clinic, the first thing you’ll need to do is to find out if there are any in your area. If there are, call around or visit their websites to figure out what you need to do to qualify for treatment.
As mentioned, every single clinic is different in terms of its eligibility requirements. Thus, while one clinic might not be willing to help you, another one might.
With that said, some common requirements for using a free clinic include:
- Proof of residency: some free clinics only help those who live within county limits
- Proof of income: some free clinics will only serve people who make below a certain income amount
- Proof of paid taxes: some clinics want to see that you are doing your part to be a contributing citizen
- Paperwork: Fully filled-out applications and health history forms if applicable
Again, not every clinic will have these requirements or even any requirements. As such, the only way to know for sure what will be expected of you is to check out individual free clinics in your area. However, preparing for these potential requirements ahead of time can help you to get care faster and more easily.
Know When to Seek Help Immediately
If you have any doubts about whether or not your need is urgent and about whether or not a free clinic will serve you, don’t risk it.
In emergency situations, you cannot risk potentially being turned away by a clinic that you are not familiar with.
In these situations, despite the high costs, remember that you can always go to an emergency room. There, they are required by law to help you, whether you can pay for your care upfront or not.
Some situations that would absolutely warrant immediate medical care include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme chest pain
- Slurred speech
- Mental confusion
- Sudden, severe pain
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Ingestion of a poisonous substance
- Any situation in which you fear for your life
In these cases, you can go to a free clinic if you know for a fact that they will treat you and that they will do so immediately.
However, if you have any doubt, an emergency room is your best bet. Remember, too, that you can call an ambulance if needed. While this will increase your medical costs, it’s worth it to owe money if it saves your life.
Be on the Lookout for Other Resources in Your Community
If you are not fortunate enough to have a free clinic in your community or if you do not qualify for your local free clinic, there may be other resources that can help you.
Take the time to look into these resources.
There are many health vans that offer things like free checkups, free basic dental care, free screening for certain diseases and conditions, and more. Look online to find out the schedules of these vans and other similar “pop up clinics” serving your area.
Likewise, charitable organizations sometimes have health care events that you can take part in.
The key is just to connect with those “in the know” in your community so you can find out about these events and to do your part by researching online to find out about events coming to your area.
Managing your health when you’re low on funds is not easy, but it can be done. This is especially true if you are willing to seek out and take advantage of any and all of the resources that you can.