If you’re brand new to Houston and you or a family member needs medical care, the easiest way to find providers is to contact your health insurance company. If you’re new to town, though, you may not have insurance yet, for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, if you’re uninsured, you’ll have to look harder to find providers who will see you, and you may need help paying for your care. There are resources in Houston that can help. If you don’t have insurance, and you or a family member needs healthcare now, here’s a starter guide to the possibilities:
If you already have a job, ask your company for referrals. Even if your insurance hasn’t kicked in yet, your company’s human resources department or relocation specialist may be able to suggest low-cost providers in your neighborhood. It’s worth asking here first.
If you’re a college student, ask your school’s student services office. If you’re a student at one of Houston’s many colleges and universities, chances are good that you do have health insurance, paid for through your student fees, or that you can choose to join a student health plan. There may even be a convenient student health center on your campus. Check with your school’s student services office to find out what care your school provides. If there is no school plan, they may still be able to refer you to an affordable provider who will see you.
Try these clinics for specific services. These Houston healthcare clinics offer affordable care for specific services, whatever your income and whether or not you have insurance: For patients 18 months old and up who need check-ups, sports physicals, immunizations (those needed before you register your children for school, and other vaccines), and treatment of illnesses and minor injuries, you can visit the Minute Clinic in some CVS pharmacies or the Take Care Clinic in select Walgreens stores. For women, men, or teens who need care that has to do with the reproductive system—including birth control for females and males, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, urinary tract infection treatment, and pregnancy tests and referrals for prenatal care—Planned Parenthood offers services with or without insurance, and on a sliding scale for low-income patients.
Look into local medical schools. Houston’s two medical schools provide excellent care to insured patients. For the uninsured, they offer opportunities to participate in medical trials, and may have other opportunities for low-cost healthcare. Visit the web sites for the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston for more information.
If you need help paying for medical care, these sites can help. Services for low-income Houston residents will require you to show proof of your income level, work through bureaucratic application procedures, and possibly wait a long time in the hospital or doctor’s office, but they do provide care for patients who would not otherwise be able to afford it. The Harris County Hospital District Gold Card is a discount program that provides healthcare for Harris County residents on a sliding scale based on income. You can learn about more Houston healthcare clinics that provide care on a sliding scale through Healthy Houston or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Posted by Melanie Belasco Levy on 04/26/12