In some countries, free healthcare is just part of the services the government provides its citizens. When countries have universal healthcare systems, medical costs are covered regardless of ability to pay. This is not true in places like the US. Most healthcare costs money and you may or may not have insurance that helps meet part of the cost. There are ways to get free healthcare in the US, but you may need to do some looking to find places that will offer this service to you.
First, if you need free healthcare, you may qualify for government programs like Medicaid that will pay costs to doctors and related healthcare facilities. You generally have to have a low income in order to qualify and income levels are subject to change. If you’re interested in Medicaid, talk to your state’s department of Health Care Services. Note that this is a federal program but is also administered by each state. Each state can have a slightly name for the program; for instance in California this program is called Medi-cal.
Some people may qualify for very low cost or free healthcare for children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). There may be some premiums and copays, but this amount is typically very low. People who do not qualify for Medicaid may still have an income that qualifies their children for CHIP.
There are some medical facilities that are required by the government to give free or reduced cost healthcare to some people. These are called Hill-Burton facilities and participants may need to qualify by income to use them for free. Some of these facilities are hospitals or outpatient clinics, and others offer care for long term illnesses or specific conditions like HIV/AIDs. Unfortunately, one can’t always find one of these free institutions nearby, and some states, like Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming don’t have any.
Another place to look for free healthcare is in local communities. Many towns and cities have a variety of healthcare clinics where you are not charged for services. Some ask for a small a donation if possible, but won’t refuse care if you can't make one. The US Department of Health and Human Resources has a search option for clinics by address to find locations nearby. This website also features a listing of Hill-Burton facilities.
Occasionally, independent doctors offer free clinics for certain kinds of need that exist on a season basis. In some communities, doctors might offer flu shot clinics, well child clinics or annual physical checkups for kids participating in sports. Check the local newspaper for announcement of these clinics. Other easy types of clinics to find in most communities are those that offer birth control advice and pregnancy counseling to women. Contact the local public health department for information on temporary or permanent clinics of these types.
Some doctors will make private arrangements with patients who have lost their health insurance to pay for their services in payments over time, or for discounted rates. This won’t cover costs of hospitalizations or testing, but doctors may offer to see patients in difficult financial situations at no charge. Most doctors are willing to work with patients in need. Some people feel uncomfortable negotiating with their doctor, and asking isn’t a guarantee of free care. Another thing doctors may be able to do is not charge insurance copayments or may give samples of medications.