How can I get low-cost health care while I am applying for Social Security disability benefits?

caduceusPeople applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits are often faced with a frustrating obstacle: if benefits have not been awarded yet, and they are unable to work, then how are they supposed to pay for health care? The problem is particularly difficult because often treatment from a doctor is exactly what is needed in order to obtain the medical evidence that will help prove a disability.

There is no one easy answer to this question, but rather a variety of different possible sources for low-cost health care depending on factors such as where you live and what your income is.

Medicaid may be a possibility for many people with low incomes. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, many more people are eligible for the program in states that chose to participate in the expansion of Medicaid. However, unfortunately Florida is not one of those states, so the eligibility requirements here are still somewhat strict. Low-income families with children living in the home are more likely to be eligible. In Florida, you may apply for Medicaid through the Florida Department of Children and Families. If you think you may be eligible for Medicaid and you are considering applying for SSDI or SSI as well, it is generally a good idea to apply for Medicaid first, because once you apply for SSDI or SSI, then your Medicaid application may be delayed until a decision is made on your disability benefits.

In Hillsborough County, if you do not qualify for Medicaid, then Hillsborough County Health Care may be able to help you get low-cost health care. In order to be eligible, you must show that you are a Hillsborough County resident, you do not currently qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and you meet the asset and income limits. You can apply in person at one of the Tampa Family Health Centers or other neighborhood service centers. You may call 813-272-5555 for more information.

If your assets and/or income are too high to qualify for these programs, then you may want to see if you can be covered under a family member’s health insurance policy, or purchase your own health insurance policy. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance policies sold through the new exchanges must provide certain standards of coverage and cannot deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. They may also be more affordable than other health insurance options. You can learn more at HealthCare.gov.

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