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My Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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Such an ordinary moment in an ordinary day, that turned out to be anything but. While getting ready for bed, my hand brushed over the top of my right breast and landed on a rather large lump.

Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and migraine, I made it my business to stay in tune with my body. That lump hadn’t been there long, that’s for sure. I quickly checked both breasts and found nothing else of concern. Most likely a harmless cyst or blocked duct or something.

After all, I’d had a mammogram just 13 months earlier, and there was no history of breast cancer in my family. Cancerous breast tumors don’t just pop up like that, do they?

In recent months, the frequent MS relapses that plagued me for years had all but disappeared for reasons unknown. I’d celebrated my 51st birthday just a few weeks earlier and was enjoying an unprecedented run of vibrant health.

So, breast cancer? Not likely.

Not one to panic over some random lump, I put it out of my mind. So far out that I forgot all about it by morning. That is until I rediscovered the ominous thing while showering.

Left to my own devices I would have waited a few days to call the doctor in the hope that it would go away. But my husband, Jim, had seen me through years of health issues and if he knew about this lump, he’d want immediate action.

It was a Thursday morning, so I called my primary care provider (PCP) before broaching the subject. What a stroke of luck that I landed an appointment for Monday. The lump would probably be gone by then anyway, I thought. That afternoon I approached Jim with a don’t-freak-out-it’s-no-big-deal preamble. Like that ever works.

He wanted to see for himself, which was no problem since the lump was disturbingly easy to locate. I’ll never forget the look on his face. Despite the calm exterior, his internal warning system went full throttle. Upon his insistence — and persistence — the Monday appointment turned into a tomorrow appointment.

We stepped into that space where time seems to move at lightning speed and in slow motion. A discombobulating sense of everything and nothing happening all at once. There was no mistaking the look on my PCP’s face as he examined the lump. It wasn’t one of those reassuring “not to worry” looks. It was a look of grave concern.

Within the week, I was gowned up and awaiting the results of my mammogram. A nurse inquired about my schedule, explaining that the radiologist wanted an ultrasound ASAP. None of this bore any resemblance to my experiences with MS, where healthcare seemed to move at a snail’s pace.

Schedule be damned. I could hear the alarm bells ringing.

A few hours later, the ultrasound complete, I sat across from the radiologist. Behind him were images of my breasts. Big mass at 12 o’clock on the right breast. Smaller mass at 10 o’clock.

He carefully explained his findings, using the word “malignancy,” but not the word “cancer.” He urged immediate biopsies, getting me on the schedule for the next day. The dizzying pace did not bode well.

A breast biopsy is by no means pleasant, but it had to be done and I felt like I was in good hands. During the procedure, I caught the almost imperceptible moment when the doctor’s eyes met the nurse’s. It was the same knowing look my PCP had the week before.

Their eyes told the tale they could not yet say out loud.

As I made my way toward the outer waiting room, a nurse handed me a pink carnation. Would you believe it? It was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And I was exceedingly aware.

When you’re waiting for biopsy results, 5 days is an eternity. You have to compartmentalize the questions and the dread as you go about your life. It still seemed unfathomable that anything that bad could be happening inside me when I felt so healthy.

We were supposed to return for the results the following week. But my PCP got them first and called with the news.

I stood in my kitchen, lost in a swirl of words like malignancy, surgery, and chemotherapy and phrases like “you’ve got a tough fight ahead of you.”

The only word he didn’t say was “cancer.” Why would no one say the word? I needed someone to say it before I could fully accept it.

“You’re saying it’s cancer?” I finally asked.

“Yes,” he told me.

Well, that’s it then. No more hoping it was all some kind of mistake.

The next day we went to the diagnostic center at the appointed time. Things weren’t running smoothly, and it took a while for them to figure out what to do with us.

A new doctor, obviously distracted and completely unprepared, scanned some notes. “You have a malignancy, and it’s not good,” he said with all the nonchalance in the world. He pointed to a list of surgeons tacked to the wall, telling us we’d need to pick one.

His mission complete, he left us with a nurse. The nurse rubbed her forehead. “You don’t see triple-negative very often.” The significance of that statement was lost on us that day.

For Jim and me, there was no further delay in accepting this new reality. It was undeniable, and we were ready to take the next steps. Practical steps, like confirming a surgeon and an oncologist. And emotional steps, like telling people.

Like many Americans, Jim and I lived apart from family. Kids. Parents. Siblings. All somewhere else. Thus far, I was steady as a rock. But telling your college-age daughter you have breast cancer — and doing it by phone — was gut-wrenching. Repeating this with my sons wasn’t any easier.

Within a few emotionally exhausting days, we’d told those closest to us. No longer contained to our little twosome, cancer seemed to grow its presence.

The breast surgeon laid the biopsy report on the table and wrote the words “triple-negative.” It means the cancer tested negative for estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR). It also tested negative for a protein called HER2.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) doesn’t respond to therapies that target those characteristics, so there are fewer treatment options. Compared with other types of breast cancer, the recurrence rate in the first few years is higher, and the overall survival rate is lower.

The surgeon explained that the second, smaller tumor was benign. But based on the size of the larger tumor, we were looking at a minimum of stage 2 and possibly stage 3 cancer. Her main concern was that the tumor may have penetrated the chest wall.

A lumpectomy was not an option. She stressed that this was not a slow-growing cancer that could wait. We had to be as fast and aggressive as the cancer was.

The surgeon told me I was already a survivor. Visions of headscarves and pink ribbons danced in my head.

My mastectomy would take place just shy of 1 month after I first discovered the lump. In preparation for surgery, we tidied, ran errands, and stocked the fridge. There was bloodwork to be done, and I needed a chest MRI. There’s nothing like a to-do list to keep you occupied.

I was working part-time in a funeral home, so the topic of death was fairly common for us. We talked about this at length and finalized our wills for good measure. I wrote a brief love note to Jim and tucked it into a drawer. Just in case.

I was about as ready as one could be to have a breast removed.

Thank goodness for anesthesia. Surgery was over before I knew it. I went home the next afternoon, bandaged and with surgical drainage tubes hanging out of my chest. A few days later it would be my job to remove the bandages.

There’s no way to prepare yourself for that moment.

The right side of my chest was shockingly flat, despite the swelling. A long scar led to a rather concave area under my arm, where my lymph nodes used to be. It took a few minutes for my brain to process the absence of my breast. But all in all, the result was better than I expected.

The surgeon removed the tubes 2 weeks later. I chose to skip reconstructive surgery, in favor of a prosthetic breast. That meant I was done with surgery, and my chest could continue to heal. I have never regretted that decision.

The post-surgical biopsy confirmed that the tumor was grade 3, the most aggressive grade. It was also positive for lymphovascular invasion. That meant there was a chance that the cancer had entered the lymph or vascular system.

Another scary bit of news was that there was only a hair’s width left between the tumor and my chest wall. That rush to surgery may have been a lifesaving move.

There was other good news, too: My surgical margins were clear. My lymph nodes were clear. And it was stage 2, not stage 3 cancer.

My oncologist made it clear — treating TNBC is far more challenging once it spreads or recurs. The tumor was gone, but we had to address any wayward cancer cells that might be looking to set up shop. So, the next step in my treatment plan was chemotherapy.

What I wish I knew at the time was that my treatment plan was just that — a plan. You can’t anticipate how your body will react to chemotherapy. You get bloodwork before each session to see if your body’s up for it. Poor bloodwork here and there causes treatment delays and makes the chemo timeline that much longer.

After 16 rounds of chemo, I moved on to radiation therapy. That was 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

Through 10 months of treatment, I experienced many of the side effects one would expect, but certainly not all. I managed to stay relatively active and involved, but I’ll admit that many days passed in a blur.

If I could offer some advice here, it would be to focus on shorter timelines. It helps to think about it in terms of getting through one treatment at a time — 1 week at a time.

The day of my last radiation treatment marked the end of active treatment. I walked out with a “diploma” declaring that I had officially graduated.

To say that this came as a relief would be an understatement.

But it wasn’t really over. There were more medical appointments on the calendar. And the side effects didn’t resolve overnight — my body still had some major recovering to do. We would also have to monitor for recurrence while trying not to obsess over it.

At that point, it was too soon for my doctors to call me cancer-free. But they had some good advice for me: Assume that you are. We’d done everything there was to do. It was time to move forward.

How do you transition from lifesaving treatment to some sense of normalcy? Baby steps.

It’s been 12 years since I first found that lump. I still see an oncologist once a year, and these days, they do call me cancer-free. For that, I am forever grateful.

Finding a lump is no cause for panic, but please don’t ignore signs of breast cancer. Each year in the United States, more than 266,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer, and most have no family history of the disease.

If it happens to you, it’ll no doubt come as a gut punch. Here’s the thing: everyone’s circumstances are different. I can tell you my story, but I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to handle a breast cancer diagnosis.

Here’s my two cents:

Having a positive attitude will likely serve you well. But at the same time, it’s just as okay to express frustration, anger, or sadness. You’re a whole person and having cancer doesn’t change that. This is no time to ignore your true feelings.

Through it all, spend time with the people you love. And enjoy life’s simple pleasures. It’s good medicine.

If you’re struggling, ask your oncologist for information on breast cancer resources and support services in your area. You don’t have to go through it alone.


Ann Pietrangelo is freelance writer and author. Through her books No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, she shares her experiences in the hope that others will feel less alone in their health struggles. Learn more at her website.

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Bobby focuses on creating higher margins while investing in society. He believes that our World has room for improvement, and one of his goals is to be part of the evolutionary process. What makes him successful is the collaboration with founders and partners. Bobby has a successful track record in envisioning and creating deals and opportunities from scratch in various industries.

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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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