Health Care for the Uninsured

Health Care for the Uninsured

August 01, 2012 at 4:00 am

Even though President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is helping many Americans gain access to health insurance, a vast number of New Yorkers still can’t afford it — over one million people — and probably won’t be able anytime soon as the cost of insurance stays high for now. The individual mandate goes into effect in 2014.

In the meantime, there are a variety of hospitals, clinics, and organizations around New York City that provides free or low cost medical care for the uninsured or underinsured. Don’t wait around to get the health care you need.



New York City Free Clinic

16 East 16th Street, Manhattan

For uninsured adults 18 years or older

The NYC Free Clinic (NYCFC) is part of the esteemed NYU Langone Medical Center and provides a wide range of health care services at no cost to patients. These include basic primary care, disease prevention and screening and HIV testing, among other services. Given the high costs for prescription medication, the NYCFC provides assistance through their apothecary to help patients find the most affordable prescriptions. In 2008, NYCFC opened the Women’s Health Free Clinic, the first of its kind in the nation run by students from the NYU medical school, Beth Israel residents and women’s health specialists. For those who require more comprehensive care, NYCFC physicians can give free referrals to a clinic at the Bellevue Hospital Center, in areas like orthopedics, neurology and dermatology. The extra care you get at Bellevue Hospital Center is also free of charge if you are referred through NYCFC. You can either call or sign up for an appointment on their website. Currently, appointments are held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., although patients can be screened during the week for NYCFC eligibility.


Weill Cornell Community Clinic

505 East 70th Street, Manhattan

For uninsured New Yorkers 19 years or older

Clinic doctors with a Weill Cornell Community Clinic patient. Phtoo courtesy of WCMC/John Abbott.

As a program led by Weill Cornell Medical College students, the WCCC strives to give high-quality and accessible health care for little or no cost. The clinic provides free primary care services, certain laboratory tests and connections to resources like cancer screenings. By joining a generic drug discount program like the CVS Health Savings Pass program, patients can receive prescription drugs at a discount and the WCCC can often reimburse that entire cost, or up to $50. At a reduced cost, the WCCC also provides X-ray scans, CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds, as well as referrals to specialists in areas like dentistry, psychiatry and OB/GYN services. Though the clinic does not allow walk-in appointments, you can either call or sign up online through an appointment form. Before coming, the WCCC requires that you bring a completed registration form, copies of your medical history, a list of medications you’re currently taking and proof of income. You can find out more details here. The clinic only offers appointments on Monday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.


Al Hirschfield Free Health Clinic

475 W 57th Street, Manhattan

For uninsured entertainment industry professionals 18 to 64 years

The Al Hirschfield Free Clinic is part of the The Actors Fund that provides free primary and specialty care, as well as lab screenings and health education in the city. At a low cost, the clinic also refers patients to a range of specialty clinics and doctors for more complex needs. With help from the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center, the clinic helps enroll qualified, uninsured patients into pharmaceutical drug assistance programs, and works with social service programs offered by the Actors Fund. Women can receive free mammogram services monthly, and the clinic provides annual free flu shot events for the community. Volunteers at the clinic are made up of general practitioners and specialists, all overseen by Dr. James Spears, the clinic’s medical director. The clinic does not accept walk-ins, so make sure to make an appointment by calling the number on their website, Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Make sure to have your eligibility qualifications ready, and be able to explain your medical issue.  If you do not qualify, the clinic can help you find other low-cost options through the Actors Fund’s Insurance Resource Center. After hours, the clinic operates an on-call service for patients who need urgent care, with help from the Department of Family Medicine of Columbia University.



Einstein Community Health Outreach Free Clinic

1894 Walton Avenue, Bronx

The ECHO Clinic works in collaboration with the Institute for Family Health and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Photo courtesy of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

For uninsured adults 18 years or older

The ECHO Free Clinic is a collaboration between the Institute for Family Health and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine which provides free, comprehensive health care to the uninsured population of the Bronx. The clinic is comprised of volunteering doctors, nurses, and social workers from the institute, and medical students from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Along with routine adult medical exams, the ECHO Free Clinic also provides physicals, vaccinations, women’s health care such as gynecology exams and Pap smears and counseling services. For health care outside of the clinic’s services, the ECHO Free Clinic can refer you to a nearby hospital to provide mental health services and nutrition counseling, which usually require patients to pay according to income. While the ECHO Free Clinic recommends you sign up for an appointment to guarantee medical care, walk-ins are allowed. To make an appointment, you can call (718) 583-3060. The clinic is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.


Morris Heights Health Center

Various locations around Morris Heights, Bronx

For all uninsured or underinsured New Yorkers

Morris Heights Health Center currently has five different locations in the Morris Heights area. Photo courtesy of Morris Heights Health Center.

The Morris Heights Health Center was founded in 1981 and has since provided inexpensive health care to the low-income population of the Morris Heights community in the Bronx. The health center operates at five different locations, providing a variety of services. Patients have access to primary care such as dentistry, internal medicine, and pediatrics, as well as specialty care and counseling, such as cardiology, orthopedics and psychiatry. The Morris Heights Health Center is funded by the MHHC Foundation, and consists of doctors and practitioners in a variety of fields. The clinic gives patients the option of a sliding scale fee, which is based on patient income and the number of family members in the household. Whether insured or not, the MHHC will care for you and can assist you in finding affordable coverage through their Health Connections services. To find out more information or make an appointment, call or stop by any of the five locations (depending on the care you need) listed on their website. Walk-in appointments are also available seven days a week. If you are new to MHHC, make sure your insurance is accepted by the center and bring a list of current medications you are taking along with the insurance information.



The Brooklyn Free Clinic

613 Throop Avenue, Brooklyn

For uninsured adults 18 years or older

In collaboration with the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Brooklyn Free Clinic is a nonprofit organization helping uninsured Brooklyn residents get access to free primary care. Clinic patients are also eligible for X-ray scans or other imaging scans when needed. Student volunteers from the SUNY Downstate’s Doctoral Physical Therapy program provide therapy for orthopedic or neurological ailments, such as vertigo, strokes, Parkinson’s disease and post-surgery conditions. More recently, through the Joydeep Sarkar Medication Assistance Program, a variety of prescription drugs are now available to patients for free, which are detailed here. Patients can also received discounted medication through the nearby Bed-Stuy Pharmacy or Right Choice Pharmacy located on Fulton Street. The BFC also offers free health education workshops on Tuesdays to learn more about safe sex and contraception, healthy eating, and managing high blood pressure, among other things. Patients can come in on Tuesday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for appointments, and keep track of the attending physician schedule on their website. Walk-ins are accepted, but to guarantee being seen you can call (347) 920-8379 to schedule an appointment.


Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center

1456 Fulton Street, Brooklyn

1238 Broadway, Brooklyn

For everyone

The Diabetes Collaborative Team at the Bedford Stuyvesant Health Center. Photo Courtesy of the Bedford Stuyvesant Health Center.

The Bedford Stuyvesant community has higher than average rates of HIV, AIDS, asthma, diabetes and other chronic illnesses in the city. The Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center, which boasts a multilingual staff of practicing physicians, works to help the low-income population of the city gain access to affordable health care needed to fight these illnesses, with special focus given to Brooklyn residents. The center provides a wide range of services from cardiology to men’s health, and special programs like the Diabetes Educational Program or support groups for AIDS patients and substance abuse. All services come at a sliding scale fee, but the center does not deny patients if they cannot pay and will assist with finding the right payment plan. The center has recently expanded into a new Fulton Street location with partial funding from the New York State Department of Health, and help from the New York City Council. Check their website for specific operating hours at each location and call to set up an appointment.


Community Health Care Network, Medical Mobile Van

Various locations around the city

For everyone

For areas that don’t have ready access to health care, the Community Health Network operates a mobile health van that travels to areas around Manhattan and Brooklyn, specifically near schools and community organizations, to provide such care. The mobile van provides HIV testing, STD testing, breast and pelvic exams and gynecology services for free to all ages, although they target 18- to 24-year old patients. The medical mobile van is a part of a vast network of clinics around the city like the CABS Health Center in Brooklyn, the Helen B. Atkinson Health Center in Harlem, and the Long Island City Health Center in Queens. Many of these clinics offer a variety of services beyond HIV or STD testing, such as prenatal and post-partum care, dentistry, family planning, and school physicals. Unlike the medical mobile van, most of these clinics charge a fee based on income and family size. However, the Community Health Care Network accepts all patients regardless of ability to pay. To find out when and where the medical mobile van is near you, call or check out their website.



Queens Health Center

97-04 Sutphin Boulevard, Queens

For everyone

The Queens Health Center is one of many health care clinics part of the Community Health Network, a nonprofit organization, that helps patients who have little or no access to basic health care. Located in Jamaica, Queens, the center provides primary and women’s health care in areas such as dentistry, pediatrics, prenatal and post-partum care, adult medicine, as well as school immunizations and physicals, through a sliding scale fee. The QHC also provides a variety of screenings, like mammograms, breast cancer screenings, and blood pressure tests. Specialty services include podiatry, mental health care, and nutrition counseling. No patient at the QHC will be turned away, regardless of ability to pay, age, or immigration status. For a complete list of insurance plans accepted by the Community Health Network, click here, and here for accepted dental plans. To make an appointment, call the Queens Health Center in advance and make sure you have your health insurance information ready. First time patients should also bring a valid form of photo identification, proof of address, proof of income, current list of medications, and past medical history. Walk-in appointments are available, although the center recommends making appointments ahead of time to reduce the waiting period. The QHC is open five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most days.


Charles B. Wang Community Health Center

136-26 37th Avenue, Queens

For the uninsured Asian-American community of NYC

New York City has a booming Asian-American population, many of which face a cultural or language barrier in gaining access to quality health care. The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center works to bridge that gap, serving the mostly Asian population of Chinatown in Manhattan, and in Flushing, Queens. According to the center, many more Asian-Americans in the city live under the poverty level compared to the rest of New York City, and this population faces special issues with hepatitis B, tuberculosis and mental disorders. At the community center, patients can receive care in internal medicine, dentistry, women’s health, and pediatrics from a large list of practicing physicians, and get access to a range of specialty services catered to the Asian population. The center offers a sliding scale fee for those facing financial difficulties, and also accepts a variety of insurance plans, including federal or state funded programs. The community center also hosts special programs in women’s health, social services, and a Teen Resource Center. Call to set up an appointment at either the Manhattan or Flushing location, and visit their website to find out details about hours of operation.


Staten Island

Community Health Center of Richmond

235 Port Richmond Avenue, Staten Island

For everyone

The first community-owned, nonprofit health clinic serving the underserved population of Staten Island's North Shore is the Community Health Center of Richmond. Photo courtesy of the Community Health Center of Richmond.

The North Shore of Staten Island is home to a large population of under-served, uninsured New Yorkers, many of whom are immigrants and don’t have access to a regular health care provider. The Community Health Center of Richmond is the North Shore’s first community-owned primary health care clinic, a nonprofit that emphasizes wellness and preventative care, and disease management. The center receives financial support from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation. It is also affiliated with the Richmond University Medical Center and the Staten Island University Hospital which give in-hospital care for patients referred through the CHCR.  Though there is a co-pay involved, the health center provides a sliding scale fee for low-income patients, and works with a local community pharmacy to provide discounts on prescription drugs. Services range from immunizations, to women’s health, to chronic disease management, provided by a variety of physicians, nurses and medical practitioners. Walk-ins are allowed, but the center recommends making an appointment. To schedule an appointment, call the number on their website and bring your photo ID, your current insurance card (if possible), and a list of current medications. The health center is open Monday through Saturday.