How to Get Free Health Services If You're Uninsured

Financially impacted by the pandemic? Healthcare help is available.

An illustration of a person receiving help with their healthcare by being lifted up on the hands of others.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a public health toll that extends far beyond the impact of the virus itself.

Social-distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus led to many businesses cutting worker hours, reducing operations or, in some cases, closing altogether.

With restaurant, retail and other service industries affected by these new guidelines, many low-wage workers were likely to be impacted.[1]

If you’ve had your income reduced or lost your job altogether, you may be dealing with trying to cover necessities like rent and food.

The thought of having an added medical expense on top of that can be scary.

But there’s good news. There are some free health services to tide you over while you search for alternative healthcare options.

Did you recently lose your insurance? Check out our guide to getting healthcare if you’re unemployed.

Free meds? Yes, it’s a thing

If you’re having trouble paying for your prescriptions, there are a wealth of programs that can help, including some from the drug companies themselves.

Patient assistance programs give free medications to the unemployed and uninsured if they meet certain income requirements.[2] And about a third of states have their own assistance programs for those in financial need.[3]

Two great places to start:

Both are non-profit organizations with vast directories of medication assistance programs. To begin, just type in the name of the drug you need.

It’s also worth noting that some assistance programs can be difficult to apply for or take some time to get through the application process. If you need your medications soon — and cheaply — you might consider a prescription discount card, like ScriptHero.

Through prescription discount cards, you can often get generic medications for a few bucks — and without having to apply for a card or program.

Paying for prescriptions a challenge? A wealth of programs offer free meds.

Free clinics live up to their name keeps a database of free medical and health clinics that offer free services to those who qualify. Many of the clinics exist to specifically cover the needs of the uninsured.

Don’t meet the income requirements for free care?

They also have a collection of sliding-scale clinics. Those charge patients different rates based on income, making that bill less intimidating and letting you get the care you need.

The federal Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) keeps a program funding health centers around the country.

They provide primary and preventative care, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, serving 1 in 12 people in the United States.[4]

You can visit their website to find a health center near you.

Free COVID testing? Free flu shots? Know where to look

As COVID-19 testing kits become more widely available, states and cities are rolling out programs to help people get tested without cost.

To see if there are free tests available near you, start by checking the website of your state, city or county health department. You can also search by testing locations by state at the Castlight website or through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Some pharmacies with in-house clinics also offer free testing to those who meet the requirements.

Among the chains offering free or low-cost testing clinics are:

Health officials have also reiterated the importance of getting an annual flu shot to make sure hospitals can handle COVID patients when flu season comes.

Many local and county health departments offer free flu shot clinics and certain times and locations. Be proactive, and check ahead.

If you haven’t lost your job, many employers also offer flu shots for free. [H3] Remember to take care of yourself Dealing with a job loss or reduced income is stressful under any situation.

Dealing with it in the middle of a pandemic is even harder.

But knowing that there are free healthcare resources out there if you know where to look can relieve some of that burden.

Beyond free health services, there are other affordable options you might want to look into.

Learn More

Brad Keefe is a former award-winning journalist and film critic of 20 years based in Columbus, Ohio. In recent years, he’s worked with several nationally renowned brands while continuing to occasionally scratch his journalism itch.

Julian Dassai is an illustrator, cartoonist and musician from Athens, Greece. Currently an Adjunct Instructor of Illustration at the Columbus College of Art and Design, Julian also has taught workshops in comic book writing and drawing for the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Research Library, Otterbein University, The Pomerene Center for the Arts and Columbus Public Schools. He’s worked in a variety of graphic arts, including magazine illustration, cartooning and album design.

This article was last updated July 21, 2020

Explore Other Topics

How to Avoid Being Scammed by Fake Health Services

A guide to avoiding pitfalls for the recently unemployed or uninsured

Continue Reading

How to Find the Right Healthcare Option for You

Newly unemployed and uninsured? We'll guide you through your choices

Continue Reading

How to Save on Healthcare If You’ve Lost Your Job

Resources to help you manage your health while also saving money

Continue Reading

Prescription Discount Cards: What You Need to Know

Not all prescription discount cards are the same. Here’s how to protect yourself by knowing what to look for.

Continue Reading