For people with no health insurance and/or low income, finding medical care can be a daunting process. Expensive treatments and unaffordable medical bills can quickly turn into a financial horror story.
People with or without health insurance who have low income can take advantage of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), community medical centers that are reimbursed by the Department of Health and Human Services. These medical centers receive grants under the Public Health Service Act to provide a number of services to patients.
- Like all hospitals in the United States, FQHCs offer services to everyone. However, there are major differences that separate FQHCs from regular emergency rooms. FQHCs offer sliding scale discount programs for households between 100% to 200% of the federal poverty level, meaning patients owe only what they can pay. Full discounts are provided for households who are at or below 100% of the federal poverty level. Discounts are not provided for households with incomes over 200% of the federal poverty level.
- FQHCs provide primary care services, meaning checkups for adults and children. Families who become sick can receive services at FQHCs. Parents can also have children vaccinated through the Vaccine for Children Program at FQHCs. These centers have quality assurance programs, meaning services are reviewed to ensure high quality health care is being provided to patients.
How to Find Out if You Qualify for Discounts at FQHCs
The federal poverty level changes depending on the size of households. For example, a one-person household would be at 100% of the federal poverty level if he or she made an annual income of $11,880. A household with four people would need to make $24,300 each year to be at 100% of the federal poverty level.
Keep in mind these are numbers for 2016 and it is very likely the federal poverty level will change by next year. The sliding scale system and discounts used by FQHCs can vary depending on the circumstances.
To see whether you qualify for discounts at your local FQHCs, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website.
How to Locate FQHCs in Kansas City
The Department of Health and Human Services website has an FQHC locator that works by entering your ZIP code, city or state. To find FQHCs in your area, put in your ZIP code and select the distance (in miles) from your location.
If we put the ZIP code and city for The Sader Law Firm into the search bar (64108, Kansas City) and select 15 miles, we get 18 FQHCs to choose from. Results will list the phone numbers and addresses for each location. In addition, directions to get to the locations and health center websites are also sometimes provided.
After arriving at an FQHC of your choosing, you may be required to meet with a financial counselor. Although it can help to bring pay stubs or other income information, it may not always be required. FQHCs also have counselors to help enroll families in Medicaid plans which will make it easier to receive care for future services.
We hope this guide can help people in Kansas City find low-cost medical care while experiencing financial hardship. Excessive medical bills can lead to wage garnishments, low credit scores and defaults on other debt obligations. People who are experiencing wage garnishments from past due medical bills should consult with a bankruptcy attorney to explore additional options.
The Kansas City bankruptcy attorneys at The Sader Law Firm can help individuals struggling with the consequences of excessive medical debt.