There are thousands of working, uninsured adults in New York. Some of them have families. Chances are good that you know someone in this category: the guy delivering your pad thai, a friend,  your nanny or maybe….you. Running around without insurance can be scary, especially if you get sick or have a major medical incident. But, there may be a program for you out there, regardless of legal status as a US citizen.

The state has a program called Healthy NY which is intended to cover low income folks who are uninsured and don’t qualify for Medicaid or Family Health Plus and whose employers don’t provide insurance. Some of that will be covered at the end, but we’ll focus primarily on New York City services.

The City of New York has a program called HHC Options which gives you discounted clinic and emergency visits at city hospitals and prescriptions. You are required to do some legwork on your own first, so don’t show up with a runny nose and tickly throat without following these steps first. There’s even a barter program for starving artists to ply their trade in exchange for care.

What is it?
City hospitals are run by New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, also called HHC. The city has a program called HHC Options which assists moderate and low income patients and families down one of two roads.

First, they will help determine if you and your family are eligible for public insurance options. If you are eligible, congrats, you no longer have to read the rest of this piece.

If you aren’t eligible for any public insurance program, the city allows ANYONE to apply for the HHC Option program, REGARDLESS OF IMIGRATION STATUS. All immigration status is kept confidential by the hospital. Once approved, you can enroll and receive steeply discounted visits at these city clinics and hospitals.

Even if you have insurance, like Medicare, that perhaps isn’t covering everything you need, you may be eligible for HHC Options.

How does it work?
You must prove who you are, that you live in New York City and that you don’t make that much money. Taking the following documents would be recommended:

• Proof of Identity and Date of Birth, like a New York state ID or driver’s license, birth certificate, Baptismal record, Consular I.D., or a U.S. or foreign passport;
• Home Address, which could be on your I.D. or a utility or cell phone bill sent to you…some official correspondence with your name and your NYC address on it…call for other proofs;
• Proof of Income, such as a copy of pay check or stubs, a letter or written statement from the employer, person, or agency providing income.

**If you can’t get a written statement, the HHC has a Financial Counselor to discuss your income.

Go to one of the city clinics and hospitals.  Sign up. If you are an uninsured worker with a low or middle income level, you likely will be eligible for some discount. Signing up can take as little as half an hour of your time. Once done, you can make your first appointments. There might be a fair amount of time between the day you sign up and when appointments are available, so it’s probably best to sign up for appointments as soon as your application is processed.
****(Our friend has been to one of the HHC clinics 3 times: the initial sign up took 1 hour, the first appointment she was seen on time and was very pleased with her experience as was treated very well and with respect with thorough medical care and for her last appointment for a follow-up and an MRI, she had to wait 2 hours! However, she paid very little for her visits and tests).

How much does it cost?
Prices are on a sliding scale for doctor visits depending on income. Costs vary from $15-60, depending on your family size and household income. For example, an adult female with a family of four and a household income of as much as $82,000 can visit an HHC clinic or emergency room for $60 a visit. A visit for one of her children would only cost $20. You might be saying to yourself that it’s almost like regular insurance. The best part is that’s the upper end of the scale…other levels of the program would have you pay less. Charts and pay scales are available here. Hospital stays are more expensive, but not as much as you would pay rack rate without insurance.

En espanol

Haitian Creole


Other languages available on the HHC Options page

Artist Access Program – Bartering for Services
A short time ago, the folks running Woodhull Hospital had an epiphany. Many of the actors, singers, writers, painters, etc. that make up the thriving artist community around them didn’t have health insurance and likely wouldn’t have much money to pay for essential services. Maybe the Hospital realized it needed essential services too: walls needed paint, art needed to be hung…. Whatever was the genesis, they decided to take a novel approach, giving artists a chance to sing for their supper…or medical care.

So you perform your act, lead a patient group in an art class or maybe design a mural and you accrue credits to be used when you need it. The pilot program seems to be a hit, as Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan has also signed on for a similar program. If you’re a broke uninsured artist interested in paying little to nothing for care, click here or call 1.877.244.5600.

This is an extension of the HHC Option program, so some of the same eligibility requirements will have to be met, as well as the sign up process.


How can you find out more from Brooklyn HHC hospitals?

  • Bushwick / Williamsburg / Bed-Stuy: Woodhull Hospital & Mental Health Center: Pre-Admission Office: 718-963-8995; ED Discharge Office: 718-630-3403
  • Fort Greene / Dumbo / Downtown: Cumberland Diagnostic & Treatment Center: Patient Accounts: 718-260-7742 or 718-260-7691
  • Prospect Lefferts Gardens / East Flatbush: Kings County Hospital Center: Health Insurance Enrollment: 718-245-4324
  • East New York Diagnostic & Treatment Center: Financial Counseling : 718-240-0628/0629
  • Coney Island Hospital: Insurance: 718-616-5024

Click here for a list of HHC Option hospitals in all buroughs

Healthy NY
Healthy NY is a New York state program designed to assist uninsured workers whose employers do not provide health insurance.  You can purchase insurance from an HMO in the state at below-market rates. These packages cover essential health needs like inpatient and outpatient hospital services, physician services, maternity care, preventive health services, diagnostic and X-ray services, and emergency services.

You can enroll in Health NY if you reside in the state of New York, you or your spouse has been employed in the last year, your employer offers no health insurance and you meet income requirements without qualifying for Medicare.

Since Healthy NY is provided by HMOs in state, you sign up through the individual HMO that you feel suits you best. The plan covers basically the same thing from company to company, though the monthly payments vary widely, so be sure to compare prices.