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Dear Savvy Senior,
Where can a person turn to for low-cost medical, dental and eye care? I’m 62 years old, recently uninsured and living on a tight budget.
Can’t Wait for Medicare
There are actually a wide range of programs and services that provide free or low-cost medical care to help those that are uninsured, underinsured or low income. Here’s where to look.
• Health centers: Federally-funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), there are thousands of health centers around the U.S. that provide low-cost health care to people based on financial need. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. Go to www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov or call 888-275-4772.
• Hill-Burton facilities: There are around 200 Hill-Burton health care facilities around the country that offer free or reduced-cost health care to those who can’t afford to pay. To locate a facility or to see if you qualify, visit www.hrsa.gov/hillburton or call 800-638-0742 (800-492-0359 for Maryland residents).
• Free clinics: These are privately funded, non-profit, community-based clinics that typically provide care for common illnesses and injuries to those in need, at little or no cost. There are around 1,000 free clinics nationwide. To locate one in your area, call your local hospital or visit www.freemedicalcamps.com.
• Indian Health Service (IHS): An agency within the Department of Health and Human Service, IHS provides free medical care to American Indians and Alaska Natives in 35 states. See www.ihs.gov.
• Remote Area Medical: A non-profit, charitable organization that provides free health, dental and eye care to uninsured or underinsured people in remote areas of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia but may be expanding to other states in the future. www.ramusa.org, 865-579-1530.
To locate free or discounted eye care or eye glasses programs in your area, your best resource is your local Lions Club. Call 800-747-4448 to get the number to your state Lions Club office, which can refer you to your community representative, or visit www.lionsclubs.org. There are also a variety of national eye care programs that can help you too including:
• EyeCare America (www.eyecareamerica.org; 800-222-3937), a fantastic service that provides medical eye care at no out-of-pocket expense.
• Vision USA (www.aoa.org; 800-766-4466) offers free vision care services to uninsured and low-income workers and their families.
• Mission Cataract USA (www.missioncataractusa.org; 800-343-7265) provides free cataract surgery to people who don’t have Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and are low-income.
• New Eyes for the Needy (www.neweyesfortheneedy.org; 973-376-4903), an eyeglass program that accepts donations of used prescription eyeglasses and distributes them to people with limited incomes.
If dental care is taking a big bite out of your budget there are options here too, depending on where you live. To start, call your state dental association, or local dental society (see www.ada.org/ada/organizations for contact information) to find out if there are any state or local programs, or clinics, that offer discounted dental care to those with limited means. Other places to check include:
• Health centers: In addition to low-cost health care, many HRSA health centers also offer dental care too. www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov, 888-275-4772.
• Dental schools: If you don’t mind letting a dental student work on your teeth, dental schools are another source that may offer discounted dental care. See www.ada.org – click on “Dental Schools” for a U.S. directory and contact information.
• National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped: A service that provides free dental care for elderly and disabled people who can’t afford to pay. To learn more or to apply for care in your state, visit www.nfdh.org or call 303-534-5360.
Savvy Tips: To find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid, prescription drug assistance programs and more, visit www.benefitscheckup.org. Also, see www.needymeds.com, a top resource for finding affordable medicine.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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