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Gun Control: Experts Discuss First New Federal Law in Decades

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Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi in the U.S. Capitol. Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • Four medical and health policy experts provide their perspectives on the federal gun safety law and its likely impact on gun violence in the United States.
  • This is the first major federal gun control law to pass in decades.
  • The majority of Americans support stricter gun laws, according to polls.

President Joe Biden on June 25, signed into law the first major federal gun safety legislation passed in decades, a feat made possible by strong bipartisan involvement.

Support for the legislation solidified in the aftermath of recent mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York.

Earlier in the week, the Senate passed the bill by 65-33 and the House by 234-193, with almost 30 Republicans joining Democrats to stand behind the legislation.

Titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, this is the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the now-expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994.

But the new law does not ban any weapons and falls short of what Biden and his party had been pushing for. The majority of Americans also support stricter gun laws, according to recent polls.

“While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives,” Biden said at the White House as he prepared to sign the bill.

The law:

  • Provides $750 million to states to implement extreme risk protection order (ERPO) programs — also known as “red flag laws” — to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a threat to others or themselves. States can also use the funding for other crisis intervention programs.
  • Closes the “boyfriend loophole” in the federal domestic violence law by including people convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone they have a dating relationship with, even if they don’t live with or have a child with them.
  • Requires additional gun sellers to register as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers; they would then need to administer background checks before selling a gun.
  • Requires enhanced background checks for people under 21 years. This would include a review of juvenile and mental health records, as well as checks of state and local databases in addition to the federal NCIS database.
  • Creates new federal statutes against gun trafficking and straw purchasing, in which someone buys a gun for a person who is unable to legally purchase one on their own.
  • Provides $250 million for community-based violence prevention programs.
  • Increases funding for school- and community-based mental health services for children and families and for improved school security.

We asked four medical and health policy experts for their perspectives on the significance of this new law and its likely impact on gun violence in the United States.

Spencer Cantrell, J.D., is a federal affairs advisor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions in Baltimore.

Dr. Lois K. Lee is an associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Dr. Michael Siegel is a visiting professor of public health and community medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

Dr. Stuart Sweet is a pediatric pulmonologist with Washington University Physicians in St. Louis, Missouri, and a member of the American Thoracic Society.

Here’s what they had to say.

Healthline: How significant is the passage of the  Bipartisan Safer Communities Act?

Cantrell: I would say that this is historic progress. While it is a compromise bill, it does have provisions that will save lives. So I consider it a step forward. 

However, the excitement at the monumental nature of the legislation is tempered by the Supreme Court decision [on New York state’s concealed handgun law]. So even though the Senate is moving in one direction, the Supreme Court is opening up gun rights even further.

[NOTE: The Supreme Court on June 23 struck down New York state’s handgun law, affirming that the U.S. Constitution protects a person’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.]

Lee: It is very significant that a bill focused on trying to decrease firearm injuries and deaths in the United States has been passed for the first time in 25 years.

I hope this is just the first step to an ongoing conversation and that we will have more bipartisan discussions. Because it’s going to take more than one piece of legislation to really reverse the trend of gun deaths that we’re seeing in the United States.

Siegel: It’s incredibly significant, not because of what is in the bill per se, but because it’s breaking this inertia [around gun safety legislation]. The fact that we’ve gotten anything passed is a huge step. I think it’s going to propel things forward and make it easier to pass legislation in the future.

Sweet: This really demonstrates that bipartisan solutions are possible, and I applaud those who made this happen. In addition, the actions included in the legislation are meaningful changes.

Healthline: Which aspects of the legislation do you think will have the most impact on reducing gun-related violence and deaths?

Cantrell: Partially closing the “boyfriend loophole” by extending restrictions for firearm possession to dating partners convicted of misdemeanors is significant progress. We know that access to firearms is a huge factor for lethality in domestic violence cases. So removing firearms from abusers will save lives.

I’m also excited to see the funding for mental health provisions in the legislation. We know that mental health does not predict violence at all — I would never want to stigmatize mental health or people seeking mental health treatment.

But we also know that suicides are the most common form of firearm violence in the United States. So increasing access to mental healthcare is critical to addressing that form of firearm violence.

Lee: I’m very supportive of the financial incentives to expand the extreme risk protection order laws in the states. Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have these ERPO laws.

Hopefully, the funding will incentivize other states to pass these laws, but also to make sure that they are effective and non-differentially enforced — meaning that the laws will be effective for all individuals who might be at risk for harming themselves or harming somebody else with a gun.

Siegel: There are two major things [in this legislation] that are immensely important. The first one is getting rid of the “boyfriend loophole” in the domestic violence law. We know that a lot of intimate partner violence occurs between people who are not formally married or even living together. So that was a huge loophole that is now covered.

The second thing is the stronger background check for 18- to 20-year-olds. This does not prohibit them from purchasing weapons, but it essentially puts them through an enhanced background check, which requires a check of records at the state and local level.

This closes the loophole that allowed an 18- to 20-year-old to just walk in, buy a gun and walk out. It also sets a model for how I think all background checks should be done — checking state and local records in addition to the federal NICS database.

Sweet: I think encouraging and incentivizing states to implement and run crisis intervention programs is an important step. Increasing funding in mental health programs and school security is important, as well.

Healthline: Are there other steps that need to be taken to further protect Americans from gun-related violence?

Cantrell: We know that banning high-capacity magazines and assault weapons would save lives. We know that raising the age to have a firearm would save lives. And we know that expanded background checks or increases in firearm licensing would save lives.

Lee: I am very happy to see the expansion of the background checks for individuals 18 to 20 years old. However, I think there could be more done to expand universal background checks [for all ages], which is supported by nearly 90 percent of Americans.

Currently, depending on the state, a background check is only performed if you buy a firearm at a federally- licensed gun dealer. So in some states, no background check is performed for private gun sales or guns bought at a gun show.

I would also like to see us expand the data from which these background checks are done. In some states that do background checks, they use just the federal NCIS database. However, other states have more comprehensive universal background checks that access other databases, such as those of local law enforcement.

Siegel: There are a number of other legislative actions that could be taken, in terms of preventing unintentional injury or just reducing overall gun violence. For example, there could be regulations that impose liability on gun owners who don’t properly store their gun and allow a child to get access to it.

Sweet: Anything we can do to move the needle is a step in the right direction, but I think there’s a lot more work to do. In addition, a lot of what was passed [in the new legislation] requires action at the state level. 

So the next steps are for organizations like the American Thoracic Society to advocate at the state level to really make these crisis interventions programs happen, to be sure that the juvenile records that would go into the 18- to 21-year-old background checks are present in the national database, and to talk to legislators about what more can be done to reduce gun violence in our communities.

Healthline: Some researchers have called gun violence in the United States a public health problem. What does it mean to you when you hear that?

Lee: Guns are now the leading cause of death in children 1 to 19 years of age. If you can’t call a leading cause of death for children a public health problem, I really don’t know what you could.

We also know that there are well-researched public health and injury-prevention approaches that could be used to decrease gun-related deaths and injuries — not just to kids but also to adults.

Siegel: In public health, we make a long-term commitment not to accept the status quo. In other words, when a problem is characterized as a public health problem, it is permanently on the agenda until we solve it.

Right now, the gun violence problem is not permanently on the agenda. It just comes and goes — whenever there’s a mass shooting, it gets attention and everyone talks about it, and then interest in it dwindles.

Another thing that characterizes the public health approach is consideration of equity issues. With firearms, we have a major racial disparity in gun violence. People who are Black are more likely to be shot with a gun than people who are white. 

So viewing this as a public health issue means making a commitment to addressing the wide racial disparities in firearm violence.

In addition, with gun violence, we need to look at this, not as an issue of gun owners versus non-gun owners. Instead, we need to look at it as a problem of the interests of the public versus the interests of the gun lobby, which has opposed many laws to reduce gun-related mortality.

Sweet: There are issues [around gun violence] related to public health that have nothing to do with guns. They have more to do with recognizing people who are a danger to themselves and others and being able to give them the help they need so that they don’t harm others.

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Examples of the Effects of Mental Health Stigma

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Over the past few decades, we’ve come a long way in how we view and talk about mental health.

And that should come as no surprise, because 1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental health condition. Many people are also becoming more open to the idea of sharing their personal experiences.

But there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health. It’s a stigma, in fact, that affects millions of people around the world who live with mental health conditions. It affects everything from their social relationships and professional opportunities to the way they view themselves.

We’ll explore more about what mental health stigma is, and how we can all work to address this and improve the lives of people living with mental health conditions.

Mental health is often stigmatized because of a lack of understanding about what mental health conditions are and what it’s like to live with a mental health condition. Stigma can also arise from personal thoughts or religious beliefs about people who have mental health conditions.

Generally, the lack of understanding about mental health — as well as the harmful assumptions about people living with mental health conditions — is at the heart of a bias or stigma. This can result in avoidance, rejection, infantilization, and other discriminations against people who are neurodivergent or have a mental health condition.

We often use the word “stigma” to describe the overarching experience that people have. However, there are actually three types of stigma: public stigma, self-stigma, and institutional stigma.

  • Public stigma: This refers to the negative attitudes around mental health from people in society.
  • Self-stigma: This describes the internalized stigma that people with mental health conditions feel about themselves.
  • Institutional stigma: This is a type of systemic stigma that arises from corporations, governments, and other institutions.

While there are many examples of mental health stigma in society, here are some of the more common instances you might notice:

  • When people are viewed as attention-seeking or weak when they try to reach out and get professional help.
  • When others use harmful language, such as “crazy” or “insane”, to judge or trivialize people who have mental health conditions.
  • When people make jokes about mental health or certain conditions.
  • When people avoid others with certain mental health conditions, like schizophrenia, because of fear or misunderstanding.
  • When family or friends tell someone with depression that they can get better if they just “work out and get more sun,” or make other unhelpful judgments.
  • When someone living with a mental health condition views themselves as worthless or talks down to themselves because of their condition.
  • When companies refuse to hire someone or provide them with adequate accommodations because of their mental health.
  • When people view examples of neurodivergence as illnesses or something to be cured.

A 2021 study explored the trends of mental health stigma in the United States over a period of more than 20 years, between 1996 and 2018. In the study, researchers reviewed surveys from across the country on attitudes toward various mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, and alcohol dependence.

According to the study results, from roughly 1996 to 2006, people became more knowledgeable about mental health — including acknowledging differences between daily experiences and symptoms of diagnosable conditions.

And from around 2006 to 2018, there was a significant decrease in social stigma against depression — specifically, less desire to be socially distanced from people with depression. However, when it came to schizophrenia and alcohol dependence, not only did social stigma increase but so did negative perceptions of these conditions.

Another earlier study from 2018 took a slightly different approach in analyzing the social perception of mental and physical health conditions. In this study, researchers used automated software to track over a million tweets related to mental health and physical health over a 50-day period.

According to the results of the study, mental health conditions were more likely to be stigmatized and trivialized than physical health conditions. And the results varied by condition — with schizophrenia being the most stigmatized, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) being the most trivialized.

Intersectionality refers to how someone’s intersecting identities — such as race, gender, sexuality, or class — contribute to their own unique experience with discrimination and oppression.

When it comes to mental health, intersectionality can play a huge role not only in someone’s overall mental health, but also in how mental health stigma affects them.

For example, research suggests that Black and Latino people experience mental health conditions more severely and persistently than other racial or ethnic groups. Much of this imbalance stems from factors like institutionalized racism, prejudice, and other outside circumstances.

Another study from 2021 looked into the use of mental health services by young Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in HIV care.

According to the researchers, less than 20% of the men who were referred to mental healthcare from the clinic continued to receive the recommended care — often as a result of increased social and professional stigma for men to go without mental healthcare of any kind.

Mental health stigma can have a hugely negative impact on the lives of people living with mental health conditions. In fact, stigma can often lead to mental, social, or even professional consequences for the people who are stigmatized.

Mental

People living with mental health conditions are more likely to experience low self-esteem and lower self-confidence if they’re stigmatized.

Stigma may lead to difficulty seeking treatment or even following through with treatment. And some people may experience increased symptoms of their condition, or even develop new ones — like anxiety or depression — because of experiencing stigma.

Self-stigma may even hinder someone’s ability to recover from a mental health condition. In one smaller study from 2018, researchers found that higher levels of self-stigma were associated with a decrease in recovery from mental health conditions.

Social

Social mental health stigma may lead to isolation from friends or family. People with mental health conditions may experience bullying or harassment from others — or possibly even physical violence.

And when others have a judgmental view of mental health, it can be difficult for people living with these conditions to build relationships with them.

Research has shown that perceived and experienced social stigma may also play a role in suicidality among people with mental health conditions. According to the literature, people who experience discrimination (even anticipated discrimination), social stigma, and self-stigma may be more likely to experience suicidal ideation.

Professional

Stigma in the professional world can lead to fewer opportunities to excel at school and fewer opportunities to advance at work. People living with mental health conditions may have difficulty fulfilling school or work obligations — especially if they have trouble with classmates, teachers, coworkers, or bosses.

It’s not just classmates or colleagues who contribute to mental health stigma in a professional setting, either. Research suggests that when healthcare professionals exhibit negativity toward people with mental health conditions, or have a lack of understanding about these conditions, it can prevent people from accessing high quality care.

Stigma comes from everywhere — institutions, society, and even ourselves. But we can all take steps to address and reduce the stigma of mental health:

  • Learn about mental health: One of the most important steps toward reducing mental health stigma is to learn more about it. Learning what mental health conditions look like and who they can affect can help reduce some of the fear, misunderstanding, and judgment around them.
  • Use words carefully: When we use words with negative associations, like “insane” or “crazy”, we contribute to the judgment and stigmatization of others. It may take some effort to change the way we speak, but it can help reduce the stigma that people with mental health conditions face.
  • Take part in campaigns: Many mental health organizations, like NAMI, create fundraising campaigns to help bring awareness and provide funding for mental healthcare. Even if you can’t get directly involved, these campaigns are a great way to learn more about people living with mental health conditions.
  • Share your story: If you’re someone living with a mental health condition, one of the most powerful tools for reducing stigma is to share your story. By educating people on what it’s like to live with a mental health condition, we can help reduce the misunderstanding and judgment that people feel.

Mental health stigma plays a significant role in the lives of people with mental health conditions — from the way that they’re treated to the way they feel about themselves. But we can take steps to reduce this stigma.

By being more mindful about how we speak to others, learning more about what it’s like to live with a mental health condition, and sharing our stories when we’re living with these conditions, we can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

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Can People with Diabetes Eat Candy?

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Eating candy can be a controversial topic for people with diabetes.

Misconceptions about sugar and candy being off-limits for people with diabetes can be found in the public mindset, in media and entertainment, and within the medical community itself.

With the Halloween season upon us, both kids and adults with diabetes as well as their loved ones and friends may face this issue even more often than at other times of the year.

This article will explore if people with diabetes can actually eat (and enjoy) candy, how much may be allowed, and whether sugar-free candy is worth considering.

Short answer: Yes, people with diabetes can eat candy.

Adults and children with diabetes (no matter the type) are just as entitled to a sweet treat occasionally as anyone else. Like everything else, details and context matter most, and moderation is key for anyone living with diabetes when it comes to food choices. High sugar foods and drinks can impact glucose levels more quickly and dramatically, so understanding how those influence your diabetes management is important.

People with diabetes must consider extra planning if they want to eat candy. They need to be cognizant about counting carbohydrates and dosing insulin correctly if they happen to use that hormone to help manage their condition.

It’s important to remember, too, that people with diabetes are typically watching the total carbohydrate count of food and drink, and not necessarily honing in on the sugar content.

While candy can make blood sugars rise more quickly, it’s that carb count that needs to be watched when consuming a piece of candy. The same applies to sugar-free candy, which also contains a certain amount of carbohydrates and that needs to be considered when factoring that food choice into your diabetes management.

Certain candies, such as those containing peanut butter or nuts, can take longer to impact blood sugars and won’t lead to as dramatic spikes immediately after eating them. However, other regular candies with sugar can cause quick spikes in blood sugar, and some medical professionals suggest eating a piece of candy closer to mealtime in order to “soften the blow” of a sudden spike in blood sugar.

Of course, you’ll still need to account for the calories and carbs contained within the candy.

While sugar-free candy certainly doesn’t get an award for being “healthy” per se, many people with diabetes (especially children) turn to it as an alternative to regular candy. The thought is that sugar-free candy may be healthier for blood sugar levels.

Sugar-free candy is made with artificial sweeteners, meaning that it can have a lighter impact on blood sugar levels.

However, a common misconception is that sugar-free candy does not impact blood sugar. It does, in fact, contain carbohydrates and calories. That means you still need to dose insulin or take glucose-lowering diabetes medications for those sugar-free candies.

If someone with non-insulin dependent diabetes is being mindful of their weight, eating sugar-free candy is not a free pass for sweets. These sugar-free options may sabotage weight loss efforts due to their high calorie content.

A non-diabetes-related benefit of sugar-free candy is that it’s kinder to teeth. Absent of the higher sugar contents, these sugar-free treats don’t lead to as much tooth decay or cavities often linked to frequent sugar consumption.

Additionally, there’s usually not a very big difference in terms of total fat or protein content in sugar-free versus regular candy.

Examples of artificial sweeteners used in sugar-free candy include:

  • stevia
  • sucralose
  • aspartame
  • saccharin

The big issue with sugar-free candy comes down to sugar alcohols in those treats, which can have some negative effects depending on how much you eat.

In this older study, researchers gave study participants either sugar or one of two kinds of sugar alcohol (erythritol and xylitol).

Side effects included:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and upset stomach
  • bloating
  • excess gas

The study participants who were given sugar experienced no such side effects.

Sugar alcohols are considered fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, or a type of FODMAP. These are food molecules that some people cannot digest easily, especially when eaten in large quantities.

Sugar alcohols can also cause a laxative effect, especially if you’re prone to stomach issues.

While they contain fewer calories than sugar, they’re not calorie-free. Eating any treat in excess can inhibit weight loss or cause weight gain.

Eating sugar-free candy made with artificial sweeteners can also cause side effects, including interrupting the gut microbiome that is important to your health.

A 2019 study and older research show that saccharin, sucralose, and Stevia change the composition of gut microbiota. In one study, people who had disrupted gut bacteria also showed worse blood sugar control 5 days after eating the artificial sweetener.

While it may not be the healthiest low snack, treating any low blood sugar with fast-acting sugar can be helpful.

Some candies that contain sugar are very fast-acting. However, some others (including those with chocolate or peanut butter) have higher fat content and are slower to digest and take longer to impact blood sugars, so they may not be appropriate to treat severe hypoglycemia quickly enough.

Another con of eating candy to treat low blood sugars is that it can react quickly and if you eat too much, it may cause higher blood sugars (rebound highs).

Make sure to consult your diabetes care team about any concerns or questions relating to candy and treating low blood sugars.

Yes, children and adults with diabetes can and do eat candy. The key is moderation and making sure to track the number of carbohydrates and calories eaten. Sugar-free candies can be better for blood sugar levels, but they still contain carbs and calories. The sugar-alcohols in these treats can also cause upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and excess gas.

Candy can be used to treat hypoglycemia, but it may not always be appropriate for urgent low blood sugars requiring glucagon or emergency medical assistance.

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Where Can I Go for Medical Care Without Insurance?

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Finding affordable healthcare without insurance may seem daunting, but there are more options than you may think. Here are more than 18 resources that can provide assistance.

It’s no secret that accessing healthcare can be very expensive. If you don’t have insurance, those costs are even higher. In fact, 85% of uninsured people in the United States reported that paying for healthcare was difficult in 2022.

Fortunately, there are resources that can help you find and pay for medical care without insurance. You can find care at low or no cost with a variety of programs designed to help people without health insurance get the care they need.

Yes, you can get medical care if you don’t have health insurance.

In the United States, hospital emergency rooms are required to provide treatment regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

Additionally, there are many medical facilities that provide routine care to people who don’t have insurance. You will be asked to pay for any care you receive, but there are ways to find healthcare at a lower cost.

There are a variety of options for seeking care if you don’t have insurance. Many of these options are designed to be affordable. In some cases, you might be able to get certain healthcare services for free.

You can find low cost or free care in several locations:

Community health centers

Community health centers are nonprofit health clinics that offer low cost or free care. Often, fees are set on an income-based sliding scale, and staff will work with you to determine your costs.

The exact services offered by a community health center depend on the location but generally include:

  • preventive healthcare
  • basic healthcare
  • family planning services
  • vaccinations
  • chronic condition management

Some community health centers also offer prescription medications and dental care. You can search for community health centers near you by checking here.

State or county departments of health

Your state or county department of health might cover certain healthcare services for eligible residents. Often, this includes access to preventive care, such as vaccines or screenings.

You might need to register in advance and prove that you reside in the county or state to receive free care.

You can search for your local department of health here.

Urgent care and walk-in clinics

Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics offer care without an appointment. Often, these facilities offer reduced cost care for people who don’t have insurance. Some urgent care centers list costs for standard services on their websites.

You can also call ahead to talk with a representative about fees and possible cost reductions for people without insurance.

Pharmacy care clinics

Pharmacies, including the pharmacies inside major national chains such as Walmart, often provide preventive care services for free. These services are normally provided during health clinics held on specific days.

Services offered can vary but typically include:

You can check with your local pharmacy about any upcoming clinics, or search online for pharmacy clinics in your area.

Teaching hospitals

If you have a teaching hospital in your area, you might be able to receive care at a reduced rate. The exact care you can access at a reduced rate depends on the hospital and the needs of the medical students.

You can call the teaching hospital and ask whether they offer any reduced cost care.

Employer-sponsored wellness programs

Some employers offer wellness programs to their employees. In many cases, this includes preventive healthcare, such as annual vaccines and healthcare screenings.

You can check in with your human resources department if you’re not sure what healthcare benefits are part of your employer’s wellness program.

The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics

You can use the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics website to search for health clinics and pharmacies in your area that offer free or low cost services.

The association is dedicated to caring for people who are uninsured or underinsured. There are more than 1,400 clinics and pharmacies in the association.

If you need assistance paying for care, you have a handful of options:

Charity care

Some states offer charity care that reduces the cost of medical care for people who meet income requirements. If you qualify, you can receive low cost or free medical care.

In certain states, people are screened automatically. In other states, you will need to apply for the program.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a federal program that provides healthcare for people who meet income requirements. Each state oversees its own Medicaid program. Income limits and exact coverage vary by state.

You can find your state’s Medicaid website here.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a federal program that provides healthcare for children. Just like Medicaid, qualifying for the program depends on income level. Each state sets its own income limits and coverage varies.

You can read about CHIP in your state here.

The Hill-Burton program

The Hill-Burton program provides funds to participating hospitals and healthcare facilities in exchange for offering a set amount of free or low cost care to people who meet income requirements.

You will need to apply for the Hill-Burton program with the admissions or business department of the healthcare facility. You can find a directory of Hill-Burton facilities here.

Aunt Bertha

Aunt Bertha is a social and human services database you can search to find programs in your area. This includes programs that can help you pay for healthcare.

You can enter your ZIP code and a category to find programs that will meet your needs.

Keeping prescription costs low is a great way to lower your overall healthcare costs. Here are some options:

Prescription drug manufacturer programs

The makers of many prescription drugs offer programs to help people afford their medications. You can often join these programs to get your medication at low or no cost. You might need to meet certain income requirements to qualify.

You can use RXAssist to search a database of manufacturer programs.

GoodRx

GoodRx is a website that will show you the prices of your medication at stores in your local area. It can also show prices at online and mail-order pharmacies. By comparing pharmacies, you can find the lowest price.

Plus, GoodRx will even help you find coupons and manufacturer discounts.

Pharmacy memberships

Walmart, CVS, and other pharmacies have membership programs that can save you money. By signing up for these programs, you can get access to discounts on your medication. You can also earn discounts to use on other pharmacy purchases.

Grants for charitable organizations can cover your medical costs. Some examples include:

The PAN Foundation

The PAN Foundation helps uninsured people who have received a diagnosis of a life threatening, chronic, or rare disease pay for their medical care. You can see a list of conditions the foundation currently provides assistance for on its website.

If you have a condition listed on the site, you can instantly check your eligibility and can then apply online for a grant.

The HealthWell Foundation

The HealthWell Foundation helps uninsured people with certain medical conditions pay for their medical expenses. You can see their list of covered conditions on its website.

If you have a condition covered on the site, you can apply for a grant that will cover your medical expenses.

Good Days

Good Days is an organization that can help people with chronic and acute conditions pay for their medical treatments. You can check out the list of covered conditions here.

Applications for assistance are available in both English and Spanish.

There are a few additional options you can explore to get access to lower cost or free healthcare. If you haven’t already, consider doing the following:

  • Ask the hospital or doctor’s office about installment payment programs.
  • Search for programs specific to a health condition you have.
  • Apply for low cost health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • If you’re a veteran, apply for VA benefits.
  • Sign up for clinical trials in your area to help researchers study new treatments.
  • Consider telehealth for conditions that don’t need in-person care.

You can learn more about accessing medical care without insurance by reading answers to common questions.

When can I enroll in Medicaid?

If you qualify for Medicaid, you can enroll at any time. Check out your state’s Medicaid website for income limits and other details.

What if I can’t pay an emergency room bill?

In an emergency, getting care is your No. 1 priority. But this can leave you with a bill that is outside of your budget, especially if you don’t have insurance.

However, medical bills are often negotiable. In many cases, you can call the hospital’s billing department to work out a plan.

If you’re unable to work out a plan with the hospital, there are nonprofit organizations that can help you apply for debt forgiveness.

Will healthcare professionals treat me if I don’t have insurance?

It’s illegal for healthcare professionals to refuse care in an emergency.

This isn’t the case for nonemergency care. Most healthcare professionals will list payments they accept on their websites.

If private pay is listed, you can get treatment without insurance. If it’s not, it’s best to call in advance to make sure the healthcare professional accepts patients who don’t have insurance.

You have options for receiving medical care even when you don’t have health insurance. There are several sources you can turn to for care, prescriptions, payment help, and more. Some programs are limited to certain states or certain health conditions.

Additionally, you will need to meet income requirements to qualify for some of these programs. If you don’t, options like telehealth and urgent care can help you cut costs.

You can also look into getting affordable insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

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