Cheap & Free: Health Care in Seattle & King County

Medicine Flat icons pack by FreepikIf you’re broke and you need health care, you are not alone, and you’re not screwed. Following are all the Seattle and King County health insurance and care resources that I could find.

If you’ve got questions I don’t answer or issues I don’t address below, call Washington Information Network 2-1-1 at 2-1-1 from a landline or Washington state area code cell phone, or (877) 211-WASH (9274).  You can also call 800-621-4636 (TTY 206-461-3610) for King County, and the rest of the county specific phone numbers are here. 2-1-1 can help you find affordable health services, and really any other kind of human service information you might need: how to find affordable housing, free tax preparation, utility assistance, food stamps, and so on.

Health Insurance

Two words: Apple Health. Washington was one of the states that expanded its Medicaid program with the advent of Obamacare, so if you’re a singleton making less than $16,105 per year, you get free health insurance – hurray!  You can find the income eligibility of larger households here. Whether you’re eligible for free to just reduced cost health insurance, you can sign up for it at Washington Health Plan Finder.  Your first step after you click the “Shop for a Health Plan” button is to put in your information into their health insurance cost calculator, so you’ll have an idea of what you’ll pay (or won’t pay) before you sign up.

If you’re at all daunted at the idea of navigating the Washington Health Plan Finder website (like I was), you can make an appointment with certified assisters at locations all over King County.  Country Doctor Community Clinic also has a certified assister on-site to help their patients get signed up for health insurance.

For a comprehensive and not too daunting list of the things that Apple Health does and doesn’t cover, see Community Health Plan of Washington’s 2014 Apple Health Benefit Grid.

Medical Care

Apple Health is pretty great: prescription medication is mostly free, and all the run of the mill doctor’s visits and tests are inexpensive.  Not every health care provider will accept Medicaid/ Apple Health, so use ProviderOne Find a Provider to find a doctor that will accept your nifty new free health insurance.  You can search by a very comprehensive speciality list, location, and provider name.  King County also has a list of clinics and centers that take Medicaid and offer sliding scale fees.

Additionally, UW Medicine offers charity care to those who are financially eligible – UW Medicine includes UW Medical Center and Harborview Hospital, both of which encompass many providers and specialities. I recommend UW Medicine because I’ve had good experiences at both the locations I’ve mentioned, and their Patient Financial Services people are very friendly and helpful.

And in case you have an urgent but non-emergency issue you need seen to after normal doctor’s office hours, Country Doctor Community Clinic operates an After-Hours Clinic at the Swedish Cherry Hill Campus. They’ll take of what you’d expect, like stitches and ear aches, and they also provide anything you’d get taken care of at your primary care physician’s office too.  This is SUPER helpful if you get sick on a Friday, or if you think you might need something checked but it’d be hard to take time off work for an appointment.  Every time I’ve gone they’ve been fantastic, but since it’s a walk in clinic, it’s hit or miss whether you’ll be waiting for a 15 minutes or two hours.

Dental Care

Like with other medical specialities, you can search for Apple Health accepting dentists using ProviderOne Find a Provider.  I personally like using King County’s list of dental providers serving Apple Health and then checking their ratings on Yelp.

Sadly, Apple Health dental coverage is fairly limited – extractions and routine cleanings are covered, but if you need a crown, braces past the age of 20, or a root canal at the back of your mouth, you’ll be paying for all of it out of pocket. Thankfully, the University of Washington comes to the rescue again with the UW Student Dental and Graduate Dental Speciality Clinics.  They take care of everything from gum grafts to dental implants at a rate 20 to 40% lower than the cost of a typical Seattle area dentist, and they accept Apple Health for the procedures it covers. The only downside is that because you’re getting treatment from students whose work has to be checked by a faculty member, your appointment will take significantly longer than it would at a typical dentist’s office.

Mental Health

Apple Health does cover outpatient mental health services, but again, only certain mental health professionals accept Apple Health. You can search on ProviderOne, but the results I got were less than helpful. King County has a decent list of community health care organizations , but most of the links are old.  The YMCA has an even better one, including separate categories by region and for culturally specific, GLBTQ, and issue-related (eating disorders, grief, etc.) counseling resources.

The big Seattle-area Medicaid-accepting providers that I know about are SeaMar Community Health Centers and Sound Mental Health. And right down the street from me on Capitol Hill is Seattle Counseling Service, which provides specifically LGBTQ-affirmative counseling that is “conducted in an atmosphere free from homophobia, prejudice, fear, ignorance and cisexism”.  Finally, if you’d like affordable long-term grief support in a group setting, I recommend The Healing Center. I used to work there, and there a lot of clients and former clients who have told me that HC saved their life.

As always: IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A CRISIS AND NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO RIGHT AWAY, please call the Crisis Clinic Hotline at 866-4CRISIS (427-4747).

Holistic and Alternative Care

Naturopaths: I just found out that Apple Health covers visits to naturopathic physicians, though it still doesn’t cover things like acupuncture or massage (darn it). Again, you can search ProviderOne to find a naturopath near you that accepts Apple Health – there are quite a few.

Acupuncture: The Seattle Community Acupuncture Network has a list of affordable and sliding scale acupuncturists located all around Seattle.  I’ve been to The Pin Cushion, one of SCAN’s network members, and I was always very happy with their hours of operation and quality of service.

Thankfully, Seattle has a lot of health care resources for those of us who are income deficient. I hope I listed most of them, but if there’s anything big I’ve missed, please post about it in the comments.

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