Your Health Insurance: Are you uninsured or need help paying for medicine?

Bridget Thornton is MLA’s health insurance Navigator. MLA photo

With rising prices in the health insurance Marketplace and very specific guidelines to qualify for Medicaid (MaineCare) and Medicare, many people find themselves without any affordable options to receive health or dental care, or to get prescriptions filled.

Did you know that Maine has a large network of free and sliding-scale clinics? These clinics are located across the state in regional health centers and local hospitals. While the free clinics typically only see those that are uninsured, regional health centers welcome everyone regardless of insurance status. For people without insurance, these centers offer a sliding-scale fee based on income. The clinics and health centers typically offer a full range of primary care services, and some also provide mental health counseling, support and recovery groups, chronic disease management, case management, insurance enrollment assistance, and oral health services.

If you live in Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo, or York Counties, you also have access to the CarePartners program which helps people get primary care and specialty care with support services, such as case management and low-cost medicines. To enroll or for more information about CarePartners, call 1-877-626-1684.

In addition, hospitals in Maine must provide free care to those that qualify. You have a right to get “medically necessary” care at any hospital in Maine, even if you can’t pay for it. Some hospitals offer sliding-scale discounts based on your income as well.

While we often think of physical health when it comes to healthcare, oral health plays an important role in your overall well-being. Dental disease affects people of all ages and is highly preventable with regular checkups. Many people do not have dental insurance, but they do have access to dental clinics. These dental clinics operate the same way many health clinics do, by providing free or low-cost services to everyone.

Prescription drug costs can be a huge headache, but here in Maine we have programs to help reduce the cost of prescriptions. There are state programs like MaineCare, MedAccess, ME Rx Plus, and Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled (DEL). These programs are based on household size, income, and sometimes assets.

You may also find programs to help with medical costs through your local pharmacy, such as Hannaford, or through general assistance provided by your town office. Some of these programs have income or other guidelines for their help, and some do not. You can call 1-800-965-7476 for more information on how to access these programs.

Have you heard about $4 generics? An easy way to save on prescriptions is by using generics. Generic medications are usually much cheaper than brand name drugs. Many large retail pharmacies have started providing generic medications for only $4, regardless of your income or insurance status. Smaller, local pharmacies sometimes have generous discount programs as well. It’s a good idea to call the pharmacies nearest to you and ask about any discount programs they may offer.

Don’t let being uninsured stop you from getting the care you need and deserve. If you need help finding a local health or dental clinic or a prescription drug assistance program, call the MLA at 207-967-4555 or email Bridget at bridget@mainelobstermen.org.

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