Your Guide to Gender Affirming Care
Gender affirming care (GAC) refers to any combination of social, legal, and medical measures that help people feel happy, healthy, and safe in their gender. GAC takes a holistic approach to making sure a person’s mental and physical needs surrounding their gender identity and expression are met.
GAC is for anyone who needs it. It involves a wide range of healthcare approaches that differ depending on your individual needs.
However, GAC continues to be a source of stigmatization and stress for many transgender people. Healthline aims to dispel misinformation surrounding GAC, showcase its complexity, and explain why it is so vitally important.
Below, we highlight key terms and definitions, as well as share insights about access and availability.
Learning the words and phrases related to GAC and LGBTQIA+ identity may feel overwhelming at first. But this terminology is really important to learn and use — not just so we can respect others, but so we can understand ourselves better, too.
Human beings are complicated, and our languages aren’t always able to fully capture who we are and how we feel.
Plus, our understanding of language is constantly evolving. We’ll continue to update this article as our understanding of gender identity and the best care around it grows.
Here are key terms to know:
- Sex assigned at birth. This refers to how clinicians established your sex and gender at birth (or beforehand in sonograms). While often understood to be a simple choice between male or female, human sex is much more complex, with many intersex variations. It’s impossible to truly know what your sex is without having your chromosomes mapped.
- AFAB: assigned female at birth
- AMAB: assigned male at birth
- Gender identity. Your gender identity is your personal, internal sense of what your gender is (or isn’t). Learn more about terms for gender identity and expression.
- Cisgender. Describes a person who identifies with the gender assigned to them at birth.
- Transgender. Describes a person who identifies with a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth. This is an umbrella category that can include many different gender identities, such as nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or genderqueer.
- Gender expression. Refers to how a person chooses to present their gender. Gender expression may include someone’s preferred aesthetics, physical traits, or simply their stated identity.
- Gender dysphoria. A sense of misalignment or dissatisfaction with your gender. It’s a form of body dysmorphia.
- Gender euphoria. Feelings of alignment or joy about your gender identity or expression. Finding what aspects of gender feel good or make you happy can be an important part of your transition.
- Diagnosis-first model. This traditional model of medical care adheres to the criteria in either the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition” (DSM-5)” or the “
International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 11th edition (ICD-11).” In this model, you must use their standards of diagnosis to prove that you’re transgender, then proceed with one of their preapproved plans of care.
- Informed-consent model. This modern form of medical care is based on the informed consent of the person seeking care. In this model, once you tell your clinician that you’re transgender, they will aim to help you build a healthy transition plan based on your goals.
- Coming out. When someone comes out in an LGBTQIA+ context, they are sharing their gender or sexual identity with another person, group, or community. Being outed is when that information is given away by another person without someone’s consent or knowledge.
- Pronouns. Words used to substitute for a noun. He, she, and they are the most common pronouns used in English, but there are also others. Learn more about gender pronouns.
A gender transition refers to any combination of social, medical, and legal changes a person makes in order to support their gender identity. Usually, this involves transitioning (switching) from one gender role to another or moving away from the gender assigned to you at birth.
For trans people, a transition is usually the goal of GAC.
Here’s a short breakdown of what the different parts of a transition can look like:
- Social transition. This is the process of shifting your social gender role, or the way you express and embody your gender out in the world. Often, this process involves coming out and making sure those around you know how best to respect and support your gender identity.
- Medical transition. A medical transition refers to any combination of surgical and nonsurgical options you may pursue as part of your GAC. We’ll go over these categories more in-depth later in this article.
- Legal transition. Some people find that legally changing their name and gender marker is an essential component of their gender journey. The process for changing your name or gender marker varies by state and country.
Historically, accessing GAC was difficult, expensive, and, at times, traumatizing. But today there’s a trend toward more informed-consent care.
If you’re a trans person seeking GAC, “informed consent” will be an important term to look for when researching a new clinician. Informed-consent healthcare is based around the idea that you know yourself best, and it’s your medical team’s job to help you access the care you need in the safest way possible.
Ideally, you should feel comfortable discussing your transition with your healthcare team. Even if you aren’t pursuing medical transition procedures, they’ll be able to update your information with your desired name and pronouns.
If you’re having trouble finding a healthcare professional that is able to do so, this map of informed-consent clinics in the United States may be useful.
If you’re unable to find a clinic that specializes in GAC, it may be helpful to contact your healthcare professional prior to your appointment to let them know about the types of treatments you’re interested in. This will give them time to research anything they’re not familiar with.
A 2022 study found that only 20 percent of clinicians received relevant training on transgender topics during their graduate studies. Instead, they were more likely to pursue this training on their own after meeting trans people in need of care.
While that can be frustrating to know, it does show that the mental health community is working to fill in the gaps left by their establishments, often through mentorship or professional conferences.
So if you’re having trouble finding a therapist or psychiatrist, you might consider reaching out to one that you’re interested in to see if they would be willing to continue their education and take on a trans client.
Many online-based therapy platforms have filters that allow you to search for therapists specializing in queer and trans care. Psychology Today also has a database of trans therapists that you can search to find one in your area.
Why bring a therapist along on your gender journey?
Unpacking the role of gender in your life and the effects of growing up transgender (“in the closet” or otherwise), can take a lifetime.
A mental health professional can help you gain perspective and create a plan for personal growth. A good therapist, for example, can become an essential part of a healthy support system, especially for people with difficult family dynamics.
Additionally, if you pursue some methods of medical transitioning (like surgery), you may need a letter stating the medical necessity from either a therapist or psychologist. Your insurance company or surgical team will let you know if you need this information.
Accessing GAC can improve all areas of life for a trans person, but often it can be difficult to come by.
When it comes to trans youth, this can be due to lack of family support.
For trans adults, this commonly takes the form of medical incompetence. A 2018 study reported, for example, that up to 70 percent of trans men had to educate their healthcare professionals in order to access the care they needed.
Read what experts want you to know about the mental health effects of GAC.
These barriers affect more than just the healthcare related to a gender transition. Because the traditional healthcare system is designed for cisgender people, it creates gaps that trans and other gender-diverse people may slip through.
For example, in the United Kingdom and other places, nationwide efforts to increase cancer awareness send reminders for cervical cancer screenings only to those with a “female” marker on their identification. This leaves trans men and some intersex people out of these life saving measures.
Likewise, trans women over age 50 may not be receiving regular mammograms, even though current guidelines recommend them for people who have been receiving hormone therapy for at least 5 years.
Receiving GAC is vital to mental health stability, especially for young people. One 2022 study of transgender youth in the United States showed that being able to receive hormone therapy reduced reports of recent depression and suicide attempts in the previous year by 61 percent.
The dangers of conversion therapy
Conversion therapy, or reparative therapy, is a debunked tactic where so-called “experts” try to “cure” someone of being gay, bisexual, trans, or any other identity that isn’t cis and straight. These programs often involve verbal, and even physical, abuse.
Conversion therapy is wrong on every level. There is no proof that anyone’s sexuality or gender can be manipulated or changed with therapy of any kind. Most importantly, this practice operates on the false idea that being LGBTQIA+ is bad and something that needs to be “fixed.”
These types of programs are associated with increased rates of depression and suicide in LGBTQIA+ people. Learn more about conversion therapy laws in your state.
Let’s go over some of the most common types of gender affirming healthcare, particularly in relation to gender transitions. In addition to social and legal components, a transition may involve any combination of hormone therapy, surgical, and nonsurgical options.
Remember, there’s no one “right way” to transition, and everyone’s individual needs are different.
Hormone blockers (aka puberty blockers) allow you to (reversibly and temporarily) prevent puberty from starting while you decide whether to start hormone replacement treatment, according to
Being on puberty blockers can come with several side effects,
- slowed development of libido
- decreased bone density
- halted height growth
A lot of opposition to puberty blockers stems from the false idea that they cause sterility and have permanent effects. People against GAC also argue that children and teens are just “going through a phase,” and can’t be trusted to make the right decisions for their bodies.
Going through puberty for a gender you don’t identify with can be deeply traumatizing and cause unwanted permanent changes to your body composition and sex characteristics.
The Endocrine Society advises that adolescents who meet the criteria for gender dysphoria and incongruence and are seeking hormone treatment “should initially undergo treatment to suppress pubertal development.”
Puberty blockers have been found to lead to better mental health outcomes in trans people who receive them, specifically
These medications lower levels of testosterone in the body, and can be used by cis, intersex, and trans people to reduce testosterone’s masculinizing effects.
Anti-androgens are often combined with estrogen hormone treatment. They are usually taken by people whose pre-transition dominant hormone is testosterone.
Hormone replacement treatment (HRT)
HRT involves receiving a regular dose of testosterone or estrogen to bring about desired changes to your secondary sex characteristics. The goal of HRT is usually to raise someone’s hormone level to the average level of that hormone found in cis people.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s body has some degree of both testosterone and estrogen, but our dominant sex hormones differ. HRT usually changes which sex hormone is dominant.
Some of the changes caused by long-term HRT are permanent, while others are reversible.
While HRT does cause substantial changes and has a risk of complications, it’s a common treatment that’s considered safe when monitored by a healthcare professional. Cis people, for example, have been using HRT for decades to treat erectile dysfunction and menopause symptoms, among other health conditions.
Types of HRT are:
- Testosterone (T) therapy. Hormone replacement therapy with T involves receiving a regular dose via injection, topical gel, patch, or through an implanted pellet. Testosterone therapy causes changes that are usually considered masculinizing, per
- Estrogen (E) therapy. Hormone replacement therapy with E involves receiving a regular dose via oral tablet, injection, or patch. Estrogen therapy causes changes usually considered feminizing, the 2016 research says.
Laser hair removal
For some people, body hair is a source of gender dysphoria or discomfort. Laser hair removal offers a long-term (though not permanent) option for keeping skin smoother and hair-free. Laser hair removal is commonly used for the face, legs, arms, and back, among other areas.
Laser hair removal involves multiple sessions. A licensed healthcare professional uses a special light beam to target hair follicles, damaging them and stopping hair growth, according to
There are many different types of lasers, and finding the right one for your skin type is key. This procedure can also cause scarring and skin irritation, and it can be very expensive.
Whether someone requires surgery as a part of their transition is entirely up to them. Trans people may pursue a variety of surgical options to help express their gender.
Surgical procedures that augment the chest are known colloquially as top surgery, and those that change genitalia are often referred to as bottom surgery.
Here are some common gender affirming surgical procedures:
- Double mastectomy. There are many types of mastectomy, and the type of double mastectomy procedure you receive usually depends on the size of your chest. During this surgery, breast tissue is removed to create a flat or flatter chest. This may also involve removing and regrafting your nipples onto your flattened chest.
- Breast augmentation. This surgery involves putting in breast implants to create a fuller chest. Breast augmentation is one of
the most commonplastic surgery procedures in the United States. Breast implants can also be removed or replaced.
- Phalloplasty. This is a complex procedure that constructs a penis out of grafted skin tissue from another place on the body (such as from the thigh or arm) and threads the urethra through it. Phalloplasty (or phallo) often requires more than one surgery.
- Vaginoplasty. This procedure can be used to construct a vagina. The most common type of vaginoplasty is called the penile inversion procedure.
- Orchiectomy. This surgery involves the removal of one or both testicles. It is usually done together with a vaginoplasty but may also be performed on its own to reduce testosterone levels.
- Hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus, and there are several different types of this procedure. A hysterectomy might be pursued during a gender transition if someone is experiencing endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, or as part of a phalloplasty, among other reasons.
- Facial surgeries. Gender affirming facial surgery can include a variety of plastic surgery procedures. This includes face and lip lifts, Botox injections, and resizing the jawline and forehead and browbone among others. The most common GAC facial surgery type is called facial feminization surgery.
Any surgery comes with the risk of complications, which can vary depending on the procedure. General risks of surgery include bleeding, pain, infection, or requiring revisions. It’s important you seek out an expert, and always follow your surgeon’s pre- and post-operative instructions.
Gender affirming healthcare is for anyone who needs it. While cis people have used GAC for decades with relatively little oversight, trans people’s access to GAC is still heavily controlled and restricted. Major challenges to trans rights in the United States, specifically surrounding GAC access, are putting trans people’s well-being and lives at risk.
Everyone deserves to feel comfortable, safe, and happy in their body and their gender.
Research has repeatedly shown that having access to GAC reduces depression and suicidal thoughts in trans people, in addition to improving self-esteem and overall quality of life. Building a strong emotional support network — through family, friends, therapists, or mentors — is also an essential component of navigating a transition.
GAC has social, legal, and medical parts. Everyone’s needs regarding their gender are different, so no one’s gender experience or transition will look exactly the same.
There’s no right way or right time to process and come to terms with your gender identity — and the same goes for transitioning. Try to give yourself grace, educate yourself on your options, and remember that you aren’t alone.
There’s a wide variety of nonprofits, institutions, and organizations that offer free resources and peer support to LGBTQIA+ people. This can include legal, medical, or emotional support, in addition to conducting surveys and other forms of research.
Below is a list of some trusted resources aimed at serving transgender people and others:
Read the full article here
Examples of the Effects of Mental Health Stigma
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Read the full article here
Can People with Diabetes Eat Candy?
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.
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.
Side effects included:
- nausea and upset stomach
- 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.
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.
Read the full article here
Where Can I Go for Medical Care Without Insurance?
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
- 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.
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:
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
Read the full article here
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