Low Cost Medical Clinics That Can Help Boost Your Health

Photo: Yuri_Arcurs

Times are tough. Health care costs are steep and getting a good deal on a doctor’s appointment can seem like a faraway dream. Sure, the new reform is floating around out there, but it will take some time to execute it and see how it all works out. In the meantime, there are other options for the un- and under-insured, especially on the alternative health care front. Acupuncture treatments, massage appointments, and meetings with a homeopathist are only a short phone call and a little bit of money away — when you call the right place.

One of the best places to start is a local acupuncture or health school. One of my favorites include the Bastyr Clinic, which offers a complete range of services from naturopathy to basic gynecological exams. They offer a sliding scale based on your income and may be able to work out a payment plan with you. Another super location is the Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine, where you can get a excellent acupuncture treatment from students under the supervision of seasoned practitioners and some herbs for less than $50. Plus, you can combine these alternative treatments with other practices, such as meditation and qiqong, to give your health an even bigger boost.

For those looking for more standard care at a reduced cost, there are free clinics all around. One of the best in terms of offering an array of physical and dental care is the Berkeley Free Clinic in Berkeley, California. This clinic focuses on helping homeless and extremely low-income patients. The waits are long and sometimes you don’t even get in, but if and when you do, you receive good care from well-trained physicians and dentists. If you find yourself in dire straits, this is a good resource. For those with a little more leeway, they are still a good resource because they also provide quite a bit of information on other free and low-cost health care services in the San Francisco Bay area.

Other great spots in the Bay area are the Community Health Resource Centers that dot the area from the Peninsula to the East Bay. They offer complete health care services with payment based on your income. The sliding scale is quite useful and the physicians very compassionate. It’s better to make an appointment in advance, although walk-in services are available. They even have a mobile dental clinic where you can have your teeth checked, cleaned, and x-rayed. Best to check on the hours and locations before you hit them up for service.

Another stellar resource is local practitioners in smaller towns who will sometimes offer a trade or a discounted rate for the first few sessions. That way you get to decide if you like both the treatment and the person doing it and whether you want to come back for more. If you work out a trade agreement, you can extend your treatments in a win-win situation. They get free brochures written up or professional help with their computer problems and you get improved health over a longer period of time.

Until the healthcare plan starts to hit the mainstream, it can’t hurt to check out the alternatives. They may not be completely free, but they’re a good start, and many of the practitioners you see at these spots can guide you to more cost-effective basic health clinics if you need them. They're interested in helping you heal. And there's no time like right now to start boosting your health. So give them a call. They'll be happy to help.

And let me know if you have other spots you like to hit for good healthcare at lower costs! It never hurts to expand the list of options.

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Guest's picture

Really?  Homeopathy? Give me a break.

Guest's picture

While I appreciate the good intent of this article, it's providing some terrible resources. You know what's money-smart? Not paying for bogus treatments like homeopathy and acupuncture that have been researched over and over and shown to be no better than a placebo. Especially given the current economic climate, please do not waste your money!

As Tim Minchin says in his great piece Storm, "Do you know what they call 'alternative medicine' that's been proved to work? Medicine."

Here's a great resource: http://www.freeclinics.us



Guest's picture

Agreed Josephine. It's irresponsible to lead people what you note as "alternatives". There isn't even a debate: science has discredited homeopathy and pseudoscientific treatments altogether, and an educated patient should know the best way to save money is to avoid these scams entirely. 

The rest of the information about finding real medical facilities with different pay scales is very useful, thank you.

Sasha A. Rae's picture

What is often considered alternative medicine in the West is considered standard medicine in other countries. Acupuncture, for instance, has a thousand plus year history in China. Many practitioners from other countries around the globe go there to study that type of medicine. In South Korea, health insurance programs often cover acupuncture and many local residents go first to an acupuncturist when they have a problem.
That’s not to discount Western medicine. Western medicine has its place. If you break your arm or have a serious infection, then going to the emergency room or seeing a general medical practitioner is the right answer.
However, the combination of both Western medicine and alternative therapies often yields striking results. For instance, a new study has proven that acupuncture helps improve “sensory and motor functions” in patients with spinal cord injuries. When patients used acupuncture in addition to standard rehabilitation therapies, the results were impressive.
Homeopathy is, indeed, a controversial medicine and one that scientists and doctors have debated for years. In fact, the National Health Service in the UK has been debating it in the past year and recently decided to stop covering it in their national health care plan, although members of The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health disagree with the decision.
Other types of medicine, such as Ayurvedic Medicine in India, also provide patients with relief and help boost their health. Since natural medicine usually takes longer to work, many of these modalities focus on preventative medicine rather than resolving immediate issues or they deal with chronic conditions that standard medicine can’t cure. Of course, not everyone is interested in trying these types of healing services. But alternative health services are available and can be helpful to those who use them.