Get help for anxiety first, take care of the bills later

“I am a 26 year old male. I have not been insured since I was in the 11th grade and have not been to a doctor of any kind since then. I cannot afford to go to the doctor for it but I know I have severe anxiety.  I cannot get a job because of my constant worrying about everything. I have a girlfriend who has been with me for six years now and she works hard and loves me to death.  I just want to be normal so I can get a job and we can get a house.  My anxiety recently took a turn for the worse and I tried to kill myself.  I was wondering what the cost would be on average to get the help I need. Is there any kind of clinic in eastern Pennsylvania that could help me at a reduced cost?”


On Edge

Dear On Edge,

If you are ever in an emergency situation such as a suicide attempt, you can go to any hospital and not be turned away.  They are legally required to stabilize anyone who arrives and has an emergency.  Do not ever hesitate to go to the hospital to save your life!  They will work with you on the bills, and may be able to charge your care as charity.

The first thing I recommend you do is to apply for Social Security Disability.  If your anxiety is so great that it prevents you from working, it is worth applying for this (sometimes referred to as SSDI.)  The application asks for medical records and information from a doctor about your health.  To get this, you will need to see a doctor; you can find a free clinic at the NeedyMeds directory.

Once you are declared “disabled” by Social Security, you will qualify for Medicaid in Pennsylvania.  Medicaid is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.  It will take a long time (at least months), however, to get the “disabled” designation.

In the meantime, I suggest that you get the care you need from a free clinic.  There are programs to help uninsured, low income people to afford medications.  The NeedyMeds site has links to those also.  The clinic may also have more ideas for you about where you can get help.  If you cannot find a free clinic or cannot get transportation to the nearest clinic, then you could call the nearest hospital and ask for their Patient Assistance staff.  (They may have another name for this, but they should know what you mean.)  Virtually all hospitals have such a department, and have an application process to get free care from the hospital, and often from their physician practices.

As for affording a health insurance plan for yourself, you are in a strange situation in Pennsylvania.  The state is not “expanding Medicaid” to include all people who are low income.  This means that people who earn less than 100% of Federal Poverty cannot get government help to pay for a health insurance plan.  Until you can work and earn at least $11,490 (in a household of one person), you will be hard pressed to afford a health insurance plan on your own.

Your girlfriend’s employer may offer coverage to domestic partners.  Generally, adding a partner or spouse to an employer plan is fairly expensive however.  It might eat up a lot of her paycheck.

With all of that in mind, I recommend that you focus on Social Security disability and free clinics until you get back on your feet.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.