Heath Care Question...

Updated on November 06, 2012
R.S. asks from San Antonio, TX
15 answers

If you do not have the $70 to $120 dollars to pay up front to see a doctor (general practice or pediatrician), and don't have insurance...is there any place you can go besides the emergency room for treatment?

I am asking because I do not know...

Is the emergency room the ONLY option if you don't have money to pay up front for an office visit.

I am asking about for things like strep throat, ear aches/infections, sinus infections, lingering cough, etc.

Can an emergency room deny you treatment if you have a balance (owe money) with the hospital? (I didn't think they could.)

A previous question got me thinking...sorry if I am being naive.

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So What Happened?

I want to thank you guys for all your help in "discovering" other ways to find medical care other than the Emergency Room.

I answered a question earlier...the question was does having insurance mean you have access to health care or does everyone have access even without insurance.

I was curious about the number of people who said their only place to receive health care was at the Emergency Room.

I didn't have insurance for many years, yet was able to see my regular doctors (and pay them in cash), the kids saw their pediatrician (we paid cash prices).

But it got me thinking about if I didn't have the money to pay the cash prices where do you go? I am glad to see there are places to find good health care without using the emergency room as your general care physician.

It really actually pisses me off when the ER is misused as a doctors office. I have a sibling who takes her kids there with every sniffle, they throw up one time, or are running a standard fever. This sibling owes thousands and thousands to the hospital. The kids are on State medical, and they have a pediatrician...but she uses the ER all the dang time. Saying it is her only option...uh, call your pediatrician in the morning.

So thank you for dispelling the "myth" a bit about ERs being your only option for health care if you don't have insurance or much money.

Thank you!!!

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

No one should ever go to ER unless it is a life death situation. There are so many wellness clinics for low income people. You can call the county health dept, walmart, walgreens or a doctors office to find out what they offer. You are going to have to shop around to find out the best cost.

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answers from New York on

The ER is the worst place you can go. That's not what an ER is designed for. There are many clinics, especially in larger cities. Some cities health departments offer free or low cost health care, but that's usually for screenings, well visits, or vaccines. You should contact them to see what they can offer or give you recommendations.

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answers from Austin on

If you are in the San Antonio area, there should be a low-cost clinic. We have the Lone Star Circle of Care in Georgetown, Round Rock, and other areas that base their fees on a sliding scale based on income. They do accept insurance and medicaid/medicare, also.

My daughter has used them many times for herself and her children.

I just googled low cost health clinic San Antonio and came up with this link...


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Depends where you live. In my brother's town, there is a low-cost clinic for ilnesses, physicals, etc that charges a sliding scale according to income. You can contact the county health dept to see what options are available in your area.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I'd suggest a local (city, county, or state) or urgent care clinic. Here we have a several. You may have to wait a LOOOOONG time, but the care is good and the fees are usually on a sliding scale.

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answers from Washington DC on

There are Free Clinics in the State of Texas you just have to find out where they are hope this helps, and good luck:

Community clinics in San Antonio and Bexar County.

Community clinics in San Antonio and Bexar County can offer comprehensive and preventive medical care. They will use a combination of volunteer doctors and nurses as well as Board Certified physicians. All health care offered is of the highest quality, and many services can either be offered at no or low cost to Bexar County Texas families.

The health center, clinics, and dental programs offer can provide family practice, pediatrics, and internal medicine. Additional services offered include lab work, obstetrical care, health education, immunizations, annual physical exams, prescription medications, and family planning.

Some of the dental services available for free or low cost in the county and San Antonio include dental cleanings, preventive care, basic restorative dental services, emergency diagnostic and laboratory and x-rays available. Call one of the Bexar dental or health clinics referenced below.

Barrio Family Health Center - CommuniCare Health Centers
Address - 1102 Barclay
San Antonio, Texas 78207
The two main phone numbers to call are ###-###-#### or ###-###-#### . Both dental care and regular medical services are offered. A sliding fee scale is in place for the working poor, low income, and individuals with no health or dental insurance. Patients are billed only what they can afford to pay for care.

Bishop Dixon Clinic - Methodist Healthcare Ministries
Location of clinic - 1954 E. Houston, Suite 201
San Antonio, Texas 78202
Phone number - ###-###-####

CentroMed Clinic - Santa Rosa Pavillion
The El Centro Del Barrio (D/B/A CentroMed) operates the clinic
Location is 315 N. San Saba, Suite 103
San Antonio, TX 78207
Dial ###-###-#### for hours or to make an appointment for medical or dental care, some of which can be offered at reduced rates or for free.

CentroMed Palo Alto Clinic
Address - 9011 Poteet-Jourdanton Highway 16
San Antonio, Texas 78224

CentroMed Sarah E. Davidson Clinic @ Haven for Hope
Health center location - 1 Haven for Hope Way, Bldg. 1 #300
San Antonio, Texas 78207
Phone number ###-###-#### . Call for details on the dental and medical services offered, such as physicals, medications, and extractions.

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answers from Redding on

In my area, there are many, many clinics that provide full care and they charge on a sliding fee scale.

Also....NEVER forget about your County Public Health Department. I got my kids their immunizations for free and they also have other resource options.

I, personally, don't believe one should ever go to the ER unless it's a TRUE emergency. There are urgent care options, etc, if something happens after hours, on weekends, or if your primary care physician can't get you in right away.

Hospitals, at least in my area, can't deny you treatment, but you are really better off looking into the health department clinics for things like strep, ear aches/infections, sinus infections, lingering coughs, etc. They can write prescriptions. They can make referrals to specialists. They charge on a sliding scale.

I am fortunate to have some of the best medical providers around caring for me through a "clinic" system.

There are many, many options aside from the Emergency Room.

Best wishes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

In my area we have all kinds of Minute Clinics inside CVS or Walgreens. They are fairly inexpensive and see patients for the types of illnesses you mentioned.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Do you have walgreens there? They have walk in clinics here and I actually had an ear infection last year. So they took care of it and they were wonderful..

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answers from Dallas on

Uur clinics are through the county. A county facility or ER can't turn you away, but a private facility can, if it's not life threatening. If it is, they have to stabilize you and then have you transferred.

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answers from San Francisco on

I found a clinic that takes you on a sliding scale based on income. I pay about $40 for a visit to the doctor. I don't have insurance and when I went to the hospital emergency room because my gallbladder needed to come out I paid 3k for the visit and some pain pills, but opted to wait the month for an appointment to have surgery because the non ER prices are much cheaper than the ER prices. Even still, I was billed a little over $60k when it was all said and done with.

Skip the ER. Do your research and find a clinic in your town or a neighboring town. It'll be much, much cheaper.

That's for me though. My daughter qualifies for California Healthy Families insurance. Not sure if you have something comparable but she has health insurance that we pay $16 a month for and she can go to Kaiser like she used to before my husband lost his job.


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answers from College Station on

There are urgent care centers and community "free" clinics, but those vary depending on your location.



answers from Minneapolis on

MinuteClinics and other similar places do charge up front and it usually is $100 or more to just check for the things you mention. I agree with checking with your county health department to ask about sliding scale clinics in your area.


answers from Washington DC on

There are free clinics in MANY major cities.

MANY doctors will take payment plans if you call them FIRST and let them know.

I don't know about emergency rooms denying care if you owe them money. Each hospital is different.



answers from Oklahoma City on

If the hospital receives any funding from the Government or accepts medicare/medicaid they can't turn away someone who is having an emergency. They can turn away someone they do not think is sick enough or in dire straights for treatment.

You might check with your local hospitals and ask them if they offer a low income clinic and what the maximum income is for a family of XXX. How ever many there are in the family. In our instance our hospitals free clinic has a $600 cap on the clinic. If your family makes over $600 per month then you cannot receive any free services. Which is silly because if the family has children and they can get TANF or some other form of welfare the parents automatically get a state medical card and would not qualify for the free clinic anyway because they have medical care.

Another option is some sort of low income clinic that has an income criteria and they charge you an amount based on your income. We made less than $2000 per month. Hubby has Medicare and his co-pay is $20 for the office call. Then it gets different. An office call for me is also $20 then if I have a pap smear it costs me another $20, blood work is also another $20, an X-ray is another $20...so just because the office call is only going to be $20 for me that does not mean my bill can't be over $100 when I leave. Hubby mostly always pays $20 and then they bill medicare for the rest. But it does seem to differ.

So if there are no clinics in your area that are based on income or free through some charity you have little choice except to go to the hospital and seek treatment. When the bill comes and you can't pay it you call the hospital and ask to speak to the social worker and ask if she can help you to get the bill written off. They get donations in the thousands each year to take care of medical bills for poor people. They do fund raisers to pay for this charity. It's expected that some people will seek treatment and not have insurance.

If they don't see the sick people then they have no where to go. They will get sick enough it will become an emergency and some will die. It is cheaper for them to treat everyone even if they don't get paid for some rather than get sued by a multitude of families that claim their family member sought treatment at their facility and they were denied care due to being unable to pay. It's bad publicity plus they can lose all their state and government contracts for payment if they are shown to have been neglectful.

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