Do you have a medical expense that you can’t afford? You are not alone. Maryland and national organizations may be able to help offset some of your medical costs, mediate billing disputes or care denial, or provide free medical equipment.

Financial Help

First, talk with your healthcare provider about financial assistance programs. Many hospitals have patient programs to help reduce medical bills. Ask about the provider's financial assistance policy to learn about the details and eligibility requirements for care.

For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center can help patients get free or lower-cost services if they can't pay for all or part of their hospital care.

The hospital looks at your ability to pay for the care, including household income and family size.

The hospital may also be able to help you apply for coverage through Medicaid or Maryland Health Connection.

In addition to medical bills, prescription drugs can also be costly. If your doctor prescribes a medication you can't afford, there are prescription drug programs that can help at participating Maryland pharmacies.

You can also search the 211 resource database for programs and local organizations that can help.

Elderly couple looking worried at medication papers

 Mediate a Medical Dispute

If you can't resolve the medical bill with your provider or have another medical issue, the Maryland Attorney General's Health Education and Advocacy Unit (HEAU) may be able to mediate the situation for free. They can help with:

  • medical billing disputes
  • surprise medical bill from an out-of-network emergency care facility or provider at an in-network hospital or surgery center
  • received a bill higher than the good faith estimate
  • billed for an outpatient facility fee by a Maryland hospital but didn't get a disclosure about the fee prior to the medical appointment
  • medical equipment disputes
  • inability to get medical records or copies of them
  • private health plan coverage denial for all or part of care
  • navigating a hospital's financial assistance program
  • denied financial assistance or reasonable payment options from a Maryland hospital
  • termination of private health plan
  • denied enrollment in a Qualified Health Plan or denied Advanced Premium Tax Credits or Cost-Sharing Reductions by Maryland Health Connection

Find out if your medical situation qualifies for free mediation services.

Chronic and rare diseases financial help

If you expect to incur ongoing medical expenses due to a chronic or rare disease, you can apply for assistance through your provider and also reach out to national nonprofit organizations that may help.

The PAN Foundation helps federally and commercially insured patients get the medication and care they need for life-threatening, chronic, and rare diseases. The organization helps with out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and also treatments.

Since 2004, they've provided $4 billion in financial assistance to more than a million underinsured patients.

The HealthWell Foundation can also help eligible individuals with copays, premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pockets costs for surgeries, supplements, and supplies. The organization has a number of Disease Funds that support individuals with certain diseases.

CancerCare also provides financial assistance and works with organizations throughout the country that can help with the costs of cancer care. Financial programs vary based on the type of cancer you have and by region. The co-payment assistance program covers certain cancer diagnoses.

You can also ask your provider if they have a financial assistance policy to cover ongoing care costs.

Free Medical Equipment

Durable medical equipment can be expensive if you have to buy it. When you only need it for a short time, it may not be worth buying it, or you may not be able to afford the cost if your insurer doesn’t cover it.

When medical equipment is needed long-term, Medicare, Medicaid, your insurer should help offset the cost.

If that's not the case, you can get used and refurbished medical equipment through the Maryland Durable Medical Equipment Re-Use Program (DME). It's run by the Department of Aging, but it's available to everyone in Maryland, regardless of age.

The Maryland Department of Aging discussed how this program works on Episode 16 of What's the 211? podcast.

The agency said it uses occupational and physical therapists to match the equipment with an individual properly. They ensure the size is proper for an individual based on their need, height, weight and any other factors. That helps ensure safety.

You can request equipment like canes, crutches, walkers, bed rails, shower chairs, wheelchairs, mechanical lifts, power scooters and home hospital beds. Inventory varies, so you have to submit a request.

Find Maryland DME locations and request forms for the equipment.

Maryland Loan Closets

You can also get medical equipment or assistive technology temporarily, through a community loan closet.

You can find wheelchairs, hospital beds, shower chairs, toilet lifts, bed rails, walkers, crutches, canes and other durable medical equipment you may need.

The items vary, and most are provided free of charge or loaned with a refundable security deposit.

For example, in Charles County, the loan closet allows individuals to borrow equipment for 90 days. Extensions are given on a case-by-case basis, depending on the loan closet inventory.

In Howard County, the Maryland Department of Aging is providing hospital beds and motorized chairs through the Howard County loan closet. The equipment is also accessible to residents of other counties including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s County.

If you can’t pick up the equipment, free delivery is available through Neighbor Ride in Howard County.

Since the Howard County Loan Closet opened in 2004, it’s distributed more than 35,000 pieces of equipment. View the current medical equipment in the Howard County Loan Closet.

Find a local provider by searching the 211 database:

Donate Medical Equipment

If a family member no longer needs durable medical equipment such as a cane, crutches, or walker, you can donate it to help another individual in need. Donate to a community loan closet or the Maryland Durable Medical Equipment Re-Use Program (DME) through the Department of Aging.

Once the Department of Aging receives a donation, the equipment is sanitized, repaired and redistributed.

howard county loan closet for medical equipment
Photo Courtesy: Howard County Government

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