It is commonly seen that the uninsured often put off getting care for health problems or forgo care altogether. It is only when the symptoms can no longer be ignored, the uninsured do see doctors and go to hospitals. Without insurance to pay the tab, the uninsured struggle to pay as much as they can. Programs of the government such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Veterans Health Administration provide protection to people at less cost.
Charity care is available in the United States and provides protection to those who cannot afford insurance. It is usually funded by non-profit foundations, religious orders, government subsidies, or services donated by the employees. Some states also have citywide health care program for all uninsured residents, limited to those whose incomes and net worth are below an eligibility threshold. Some cities and counties operate or provide subsidies to private facilities open to all regardless of the ability to pay, but even here patients who can afford to pay or who have insurance are generally charged for the services they use.
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act require virtually all hospitals to accept all patients, regardless of the ability to pay, for emergency room care. The act does not provide access to non-emergency room care for patients who cannot afford to pay for health care, nor does it provide the benefit of preventive care and the continuity of a primary care physician. Emergency health care is generally more expensive than an urgent care clinic or a doctor’s office visit, especially if a condition has worsened due to putting off needed care.