I am clumsy as shit. I’ve gotten stitches on three separate occasions, each time in my face. This Halloween, I slipped down some stairs and got a bruise on my ass the size and color of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, after spraining my ankle the previous week. I’m the kind of girl who needs to have some kind of health coverage at all times, because I know it’s a matter of time before I get face stitches again. The only problem is that since graduating college I like to play a game called, “Let’s see how many part-time jobs add up to a full-time one.” The only problem with this game is none of my part-time gigs come with benefits. I bought private insurance when I lived in Portland after college, but health care wasn’t that simple in New York. Here, I discovered I couldn’t afford most of the basic insurance plans if I also wanted to do crazy things like buy groceries every week.
Luckily, I’m not alone in being uninsured in New York, and the city has several decent health clinics that charge on a sliding scale based on income. One of the best ways to cover your uninsured ass is the HHC Options program at the public hospitals. It’s pretty simple, you go and register at one of the public hospitals in the borroughs (like Bellevue in Manhattan or Woodhull in Brooklyn). Then as long as you go to that specific hospital for treatment, ER and clinic visits will cost you $15-$60, depending on how much you make. You also get reduced rates on hospital stays, MRIs, prescriptions and surgeries. Signing up for HCC Options is easy!
Step 1: Register
Go to one of the participating hospitals, and bring your ID and proof of income to the financial services office. Then you’ll fill out a form, talk to an employee about your income, and then they print you out a card. I assumed the process was going to be similar to waiting in the DMV for all eternity, but registering at Bellevue took me less than a half an hour and the people were all incredibly friendly and helpful.
Step 2: Make Appointments
After you get your card, you can sign up for appointments with the hospital’s clinics. (I walked right upstairs afterwards and scheduled an appointment with the lady doctor). Due to high demand, there is a bit of a wait for general appointments. But once you get your little red card, you can go to the ER and pay less than you would for a decent pair of shoes instead of trying to patch up your gaping flesh wound with duct tape and super glue.
For a complete list of participating hospitals and more information, visit HHC’s Web site.