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Surviving in NYC Without Health Insurance (Yes, It’s possible)

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Being uninsured is a bitch, and with the new administration making it even more impossible to attain the most basic healthcare, getting sick is a luxury many of us cannot afford. The good news is that I found some hacks to share so you can work around this imperfect system and stay on top of your health!

Ok, so first thing is this: whether you live in the city or upstate, the financial brackets that determine what category of assistance you fall under are the same. So before I give you the down-low, please consider getting more involved in local elections to change shit like this! Because, as we all know, making $50k in NYC is not as decent of a salary  as it would be in, say,  Buffalo, NY. Our average rent is upward of $1000 and a subway ride is $2.75! So until that shit changes,  here are some handy tips for stayin’ alive:

Medical: After comparing my income vs expenses, I knew I was in that too-much-income-for-assistance-but-not-enough-to-actually-afford-insurance limbo. I couldn’t cut any more expenses to make it work, so I opted out of Obamacare. Yet, I’m still able to see a psychiatrist, dermatologist, gynecologist, and Primary Care Physician. Nevertheless,  all these things don’t come easy, and the wait can be a pain in the butt. But it’s not impossible. After I realized I had Alopecia 5 years ago, I turned to Bellevue Hospital. They have a sliding scale for the uninsured, so showing the least amount of income possible is key (again, because of that fucking bracket). So set up an appointment for whatever department you need and tell them you’d like financial assistance. Show up about 2 hours early with an ID and 3 pay stubs. You’ll receive a clinic card  that will state your fee for doctor visits, meds at their pharmacy, and surgery and ambulatory services. They also have dentists and other specialists, as well as an urgent care. It’s actually a really good deal, if you ask me. A friend of mine got a cyst removed for $500. $500! Additionally, you can get a pretty quick appointment for a full physical.

Lady Business: If you’re a female, seeing a gynecologist is sometimes an emergency. So for my lady parts, I rely on our beloved Planned Parenthood. I’ve been going to them for 10 years, and they’ve always been professional, kind, and informative.  If you tell them its an emergency, they will help you out, even if that means sending you to the new LIC location (which is top notch). They have a sliding scale for all services. This includes birth control, yearly check-ups, breast exams, etc. If you don’t qualify for free visits there is a considerable discount, and birth control is only $20 a pop. Obvi, dudes can benefit from their services, too- from STD screenings to free condoms. Yay, for safe sex! However, if birtch control is all you seek and don’t feel like putting your vagina through the whole deblace, there is an awesome app called NURX, which delivers 3 packs of BC to your door every 3 months at a very reasonable price (mine are $45/3packs). They have thier own physician who prescribes it to you based on a small survey. It’s convenient as shit, so you can focus on other life things such as fighting the new women’s health laws these fuckers are trying to pass.

Mental Health: Sadly, the hardest thing to come across is affordable access to mental health. I was in a dark place a few years ago, but thanks to that awful experience, I found The Metropolitan Hospital. I’m not going to sugar coat it, there are some disturbed people who go there. It’s not fancy, but the doctors are quite professional and they give you the help you need. So here is the scoop: you have to show up at around 7:30 and wait in line on weekday mornings. They will eventually come around to give you a number, and then you wait. It’s going to be excruciatingly long and there’s no cell service, so bring some snacks, a book, and a friend. It can take up to 8 hours to go through the whole process, but you will leave with a therapy plan, and medication if needed. The best part is that they also have their own pharmacy with a sliding scale, which is significantly cheaper and flexible. They will never refuse services, medications, nor send you to collections if you cannot pay. I can’t say enough good things about my therapist. 3 years later, I continue to see him at his private practice. He’s an angel for referring me to Blink Pharmacy, which is an app that provides almost every medication for a ridiculously small fee. I pay less than $10 for my crazy pills, and it is convenient as fuck. The only catch is that they’re exclusively affiliated with Rite Aid and K-mart, but like, who cares? Go get your $250 pills for practically free. Lastly, I do have good news for thespians. The Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic is completely free for actors 18-64 years old!

Dental: For dental, Bellevue also has most services on sliding scale. They charged me $250 to take out my wisdom teeth, including sedation. They also refer you to their affiliated dental clinics for the services they cannot provide. You may also reach out to Columbia University or NYU. I wouldn’t wait until it’s an emergency because they have long waits, but things like root canals will cost you a fraction of the regular price. Only do this if Bellevue doesn’t provide the service you need; nothing beats $40 for a dental procedure.

Miscellaneous: One thing that most people don’t know is that you can find great deals on Groupon for local practices. That’s right, I get cleanings and x-rays done via Groupon. I found a top notch chiropractor for $25! Obviously, do some research before you visit any provider, but don’t be afraid just because it’s discounted. I’ve only had positive experiences. There are  even discounts for physical therapy, acupuncture, and reflexology!

There you go. I did the research so you don’t have to. Now go get your broken bones fixed!

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Penelope Hernandez

Penelope Hernandez

Lover of all desserts. Yogi by day, night life connoisseur by night.