9 Low-Cost, Free, & Accessible Health Care Resources If You're Vulnerable Under The AHCA
On Thursday, May 4, the House Republicans narrowly passed a health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), that could result in millions of Americans losing their insurance coverage. With the state of affordable coverage in limbo for so many, knowing where to find low-cost and accessible health care resources are more important than ever. It's true that the bill still has to pass the Senate, where it's expected to face much more opposition than it did in the House — but with this being the second time in less than two months the GOP has attempted to push through a health care bill that actively harms so many people, we're all bracing ourselves for impact.
One of the most highly contested changes made to this revised version of the AHCA is the MacArthur-Meadows Amendment, which would allow states to seek waivers to opt out of providing essential health benefits for those with pre-existing conditions, and instead set up "high-risk" pools, going back to the bad old days of skyrocketing premiums and lifetime limits on services covered. Under the AHCA, pre-existing conditions could include sexual assault, domestic violence, postpartum depression, pregnancy, and mental disorders — so, basically, being a woman. Nor are women the only groups particularly vulnerable to losing coverage under the AHCA; pretty much anyone who's not a wealthy, white, heterosexual, cisgender man is at risk.
A substantial number of doctors, insurers, and hospitals have come out in opposition to the new bill. The danger that 24 million Americans could be priced out of coverage is very real, but, thankfully, there are resources available. Here are some helpful free or low-cost, accessible tools for those with the most to lose, should the AHCA pass the Senate. These resources may not be a replacement for insured care, but, at least they are a start.
Low-income Americans in need of prescriptions may very soon eschew expensive IRL doctors appointments and turn instead to online options like the telemedicine app Lemonaid. Through the app, you can video chat with a doctor and get a prescription for as low as $15. The app only provides care for certain issues, such as acid reflux, the flu, sinus infections, and UTIs, as well as birth control, so it's not an all-around replacement for a yearly physical or serious illness; still, though, they're common situations in which treatment can be a boon.
To use the service, simply fill out your medical history on the website, send in a photo, and pay a $15 fee; a doctor will then review your case within two hours. Once approved, your prescription will be sent to your local pharmacy for pickup. You will be expected to cover the cost of medicine, which without insurance could still be pricey; however, with Lemonaid, you are not paying an additional high co-pay or out-of-pocket fee for your doctor's visit.
The app is currently only available in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, although plans are in place to expand across the Uinted States. With family planning options and gynecological services sure to take a hit under the AHCA, this app could become an important part of reproductive health care in particular.
Another excellent online option for those seeking reproductive care is Nurx, a birth control prescription and delivery service. With Nurx, there are no doctor's appointment needed for refills; once you're approved, a three-month supply is sent straight to your home. (However, Nurx currently only serves those living in California, New York, Washington D.C., Washington State, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Missouri.)
To get birth control through Nurx, you will need to answer a few questions about your medical history, then choose the birth control option that's right for you (IUDs not included, obvi). You can elect to have a doctor make the choice for you and call a service provider with any questions you might have about the different options. A physician will review your request and write your prescription; it will be delivered to you in two days.
The service is free to those covered by insurance, and just $15 for those without. What's more, the app has run a number of promos during the Trump presidency aimed at helping more people access birth control for free. Right now, you can sign up during the month of May and enter the promo code "TeresaManning" to get two months of birth control at zero cost.
3. Planned Parenthood Care
Planned Parenthood's 2.5 million patients count on it to provide high-quality care, but under the AHCA, its federal funding is in jeopardy — something which is all the more concerning for the fact that for four in 10 women, Planned Parenthood is literally the only source of health care available, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
For those without access to health care providers, though, the Planned Parenthood Care app could offer quick and affordable treatment. Using the app, those living in Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Minnesota or Washington State can have a video visit with one of Planned Parenthood's providers to discuss birth control, UTI treatment, and in some states, at-home STD testing.
To get started download the free app, enter your basic health info, and set up a chat over video with one of the providers to receive your birth control or STD testing kit in the mail. The visit is $25, though it may be covered for those with insurance. You can download the app on iOS or Android devices here.
4. Women Help Women
Currently, many states are left with just one abortion-providing clinic, the funding of which are threatened by the AHCA. But Women Help Women, an international organization and reproductive rights advocacy group, is supplying American women with the resources they need to end unwanted early pregnancies safely and discreetly. Their website has been set up to "provide information and support to women in the USA around self-managed abortion." With the use of "abortion pills" women can terminate a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks without a clinician involved. Women Help Women Self-managed Abortion: Safe and Supported (SASS) offers a step-by-step how-to guide on self-managed abortions and the obtainment and use of Misoprostol and mifepristone.
5. Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance
With metal health protections set to be stripped, resources such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance will become invaluable. An online hub for information on depression and bipolar disorder, the DBSA features tools such as a support group locator to help bring people together and form communities. The site also helps connect people with medical professionals and advocacy centers and provides a free wellness tracker app. In these tense and uncertain times, resources like the DBSA can make all the difference.
6. The National Association Of Free And Charitable Clinics
For those who need to see a doctor in person, but do not have the financial ability to do so, the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics is a valuable resource. The nonprofit helps provide those in need with information and educational resources, as well as advocating for affordable health care. Their directory of over 1,200 affordable clinics across the country helps patients locate treatment facilities closest to them.
7. Anxiety and Depression Association of America
The international nonprofit organization, which has been around for nearly 40 years, is "dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depressive, obsessive-compulsive, and trauma-related disorders through education, practice, and research." Its online resources provide a bevy of information and educational tools for dealing with depression and anxiety. It also provides information on low-cost treatment options, and can connect those in need with a therapist, counselor, or support group.
8. Maven Clinic
Maven, a "digital health clinic for women," allows patients to directly connect with doctors, nutritionists, lactation consultants, and mental health professionals online. With Maven's video consultations and private messages, women can avoid time consuming and expensive doctors appointments, paying $18 to meet with a nurse practitioner, $35 to meet with a doctor, and $70 for a 40 minute session with a mental health professional. After browsing Maven's forums for advice, select which specialist you would like to meet with, set an appointment and after receive prescriptions or advice. With pregnancy and postpartum depression possibly slated as pre-existing conditions, Maven could be a cost-effective key to treatment. Download the Maven app for free at the App Store or Google Play.
Talkspace offers mental health services through an app, connecting users with more than 1,000 licensed mental health care professionals. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; it's also a particularly good option for people seeking LGBTQ-friendly care, as many of the therapists are LGBTQ identified and are trained for LGBTQ-specific needs.