Low-cost healthcare options?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeFloyd emails:

Making barely enough to pay the rent, and having no health insurance, I don't have any money to go to see a doctor about some health issues. Are there any cheap or low cost doctors or clinics for us working poor living in the Capital District? I would appreciate it if maybe somebody had some suggestion.

This is an important question. For Floyd, of course -- but there are roughly 60,000 people in the Albany metro area who don't have health insurance, according to Census Bureau estimates. And the large majority of those people are adults (often younger adults) in the workforce who don't get health coverage through their job and/or can't afford it.

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (AKA, Obamacare) aim to address this issue by extending the eligibility of Medicaid and using a sliding scale based on income that caps insurance premiums. Those provisions don't kick in until 2014.

That doesn't help Floyd now. So we've gathered together a few resources after the jump. We're hoping that you'll also have some suggestions and ideas, because this topic is complicated -- too complicated -- and it's important.

So, have some insight? Please share.

A few places to start:

Healthy New York
Healthy New York is the state healthcare coverage program for low-income workers. Here are the individual eligibility requirements. And there's an info phone line: 1-866-432-5849.

Whitney Young
Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Services is a community health center based in Arbor Hill. Its mission: to provide "affordable, accessible, high-quality, innovative medical, dental and addictions services, regardless of income or insurance status."

Schenectady Free Clinic
The Schenectady Free Clinic "provides free, comprehensive health care to low-income, uninsured adults in Schenectady County of NY who have no other source of medical care." It's staffed by volunteer healthcare providers.

Koinonia Primary Care
Koinonia is located in Albany's West Hill neighborhood and is run by Dr. Bob Paeglow. From its website: "Primary healthcare shall be provided in an atmosphere of excellence. Healthcare services and healing prayer shall be offered to every patient regardless of economic status, social standing, and religious or cultural beliefs. Emphasis shall be placed on programs that provide preventive healthcare, healthcare education, and healthcare advocacy and empowerment; edify the individual patient; and build healthy responsibility."

photo: Flickr user a.drian (cc)


In addition to Healthy NY there is Family Health Plus (http://www.health.ny.gov/health_care/family_health_plus/) which is available to single adults and families.

I recommend taking a look at programs offered by the county, as well as the clinics mentioned above.

Albany County offers a dental discount program- http://www.albanycounty.com/legislature/default.asp?id=3379

And there are similar programs for prescription drugs- http://www.proactrx.com/card_albany.php

I feel for you, Floyd. I highly recommend Whitney Young or Hometown Health Centers (Schenectady). I've worked with both of them, and they're both the opposite of the dingy, poorly-equipped clinics we see in movies. Both centers have excellent facilities, highly-trained and compassionate staff, and they both offer much more than just health care. Both centers have dental clinics, social workers, facilitated health insurance enrollment (meaning they'll help you sign up for affordable insurance if you haven't already got it), support groups, dieticians, etc. They're also both federally-qualified health centers, which means (among other things), that a majority of their boards of directors are community residents, which is pretty cool.

OK, maybe that last part is just cool for public health nerds like me, but you should check them out. They both have large patient populations, so it might take you longer to get an appointment than it would with other health facilities, but you'll be in good hands with either organization.

(And kudos for taking action with your health issues, despite your lack of insurance. A LOT of people without insurance [and a lot of people WITH insurance, too!] just ignore health issues until they become major crises, which are so much more expensive to treat. Good for you!)

If you get auto insurance, check with your provider, it might offer a health plan. I've gone this route. Even better, it gets me the multiple line discount, which is worth more than the cost of the health plan itself so you get coverage and save a few bucks. If I end up in urgent care or the ER (which happens around once per year since I'm accident prone and avoid the doc until Ive got one foot in the grave), the plan covers those costs.

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