How to Apply for Free Medical Benefits in California

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Medical care--and medical insurance--are generally very expensive no matter where you live. However, if you live in California, there are several different sources for obtaining free medical benefits. These sources range from state-sponsored programs to county-sponsored programs and even local programs that are sponsored by companies or groups. Remember, if you strike out with one free health care provider, there are more to try. Never give up--your health is one of your most important assets.

Contact the Medi-Cal offices. See the Resources link below for contact information. Medi-Cal is a state-run program for providing no-cost or low-cost medical services to those who qualify. There are more than 80 programs that you can qualify for under Medi-Cal, and once you are approved for any one of those 80 programs, you can take advantage of all of the services in the Medi-Cal program. Ask the office to send you a list of all the programs that you might be eligible for, or search through the list of programs online.

Contact your local office of the Department of Health Care Services. If you are having trouble figuring out which programs you might qualify for under Medi-Cal, or if you feel you can't qualify under any Medi-Cal program, then the department is the place that can direct you to free medical benefits you qualify for. See the Resources link below to contact your local office of the Department of Health Care Services.

Be prepared to provide your income and expenses for the past 3 years. If you have little or no income, be prepared to explain how you survive on a day-to-day basis. Your income and expenses will determine your eligibility for most Medi-Cal or other programs that provide free or extremely low-cost medical services.

Fill out the applications for free medical services that you receive from the Medi-Cal office or from the Department of Health Services. If you need help in filling out any forms, ask for it. Such help is generally provided for free. Be honest with your answers. Submit the form as directed.

Phone your local hospital. Ask to speak with a financial counselor or someone in financial services. Explain your situation. Many counties in California have special programs to provide medical services for free or at extremely low cost for county residents. Orange County, for example, has the MSI (Medical Services Initiative) program, which provides free medical and dental care to those in the county who qualify based on income. Many other counties have similar programs, and your local hospital can direct you to the programs that best fill your needs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Your local hospital and your local health services department, both of which can be found in the phone book or online, are probably your best bets for finding free local health benefits in California.

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