When you seek any kind of health care, practically the first question you hear will be “What is your insurance?” Starting January 1, 2014, almost everyone in the U.S. will be required by law to carry health insurance. With few exceptions (such as for those in prison or those whose income is so low they don’t have to file a tax return), eligible people who do not sign up for an insurance plan will be subject to fines.
To make health insurance more affordable, the government is expanding current programs that provide coverage to those in financial need and is starting a new program to subsidize people whose incomes may be as high as four times the federal poverty level ($62,040 for a family of two in 2013).
The law expands health insurance coverage:
- You can no longer be turned down by an insurance company if you have a history of health problems, called “pre-existing medical conditions.”
- Children may be covered under their parents’ policies until age 26.
- Insurers can no longer place either annual or lifetime limits on the dollar amount of coverage they will pay out.
- Insurers may not cancel coverage except for cases of fraud.
- All new health insurance policies sold after January 1, 2014, must offer an “essential health benefits package.” Requirements may vary from state to state, but will include many important benefits.
Finding and getting coverage may be confusing for everyone as this major new system starts up in October, 2013. But all states must establish a program to assist people who are having trouble getting health insurance or getting their current insurers to pay for services. To find your state’s program, go to Consumer Assistance Program or ask at the Information Desk in your public library for a telephone contact number.
Health Insurance Options
There are several ways to get health insurance. They include:
Health Insurance Exchanges
By October 1, 2013, every state must open a Health Insurance or Health Benefit Exchange, a center that people can contact either online or by phone if they need health coverage. The idea is to have a “one-stop” shopping system where you can fill out a form and learn:
- Whether or not you are eligible for a subsidy. Families with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level ($62,040 for a family of two in 2013) who buy through the Health Insurance Exchanges may be eligible for reduced premium prices.
- Which plans are open to you
- How the plans compare.
If you are eligible for a subsidy, you must purchase your coverage through an exchange.
All policies sold through these exchanges must offer, at a minimum:
If your present coverage doesn’t include all these services it does not have to add them, but you are free to shop for a new policy through your state’s exchange.
- hospital care
- doctors’ services
- prescription coverage
- mental health, addiction, and rehabilitation care
- pregnancy, and newborn care
- preventive and wellness services
- laboratory services
- chronic disease management
No matter how small or large your income, if you are a U.S. citizen or legal resident of the U.S., the Exchange should be able to help you select the best plan for you and your family.
But it’s all new. Until the system has been adequately tested and refined, you can expect the usual glitches that accompany a start-up:
Furthermore, not all states will run their own Health Insurance Exchanges.
- Employees with gaps in their training
- Software that doesn’t work as designed
- Unforeseen questions that don’t have ready answers
To find about the situation in your state, go to Health Insurance Marketplace.
- Some states will let the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) run their Exchanges.
- Others will set up joint Exchanges with several states sharing an Exchange.
Fraud alert: Scam artists are taking advantage of the confusion accompanying this change. No legitimate insurer or government employee will:
- Call you unsolicited and ask for personal information like your date of birth or social security number;
- Come to your door and try to sell you a policy on the spot;
- Threaten you with a fine or other punishment for not giving personal information, not signing up, or not buying a specific policy;
- Pressure you to “act now!” without taking the time to read or think about an offer;
- Avoid your questions about a company’s experience and qualifications;
- Be unwilling to produce credentials or give you time to look carefully at them.
Employer-sponsored Health Insurance
One of the most common sources of health insurance is employer-subsidized health coverage. The federal government does not tax employer-paid health benefits as part of your income, so this is a very popular benefit. Because the health care reforms will eventually require all large companies to provide health insurance for full-time workers, some companies are reducing employees’ hours to less than full time to avoid offering coverage.
- If you work for a large enough company, your employer makes a deal with a health company and pays a part of the cost.
- The employer deducts the rest of the cost from your paycheck.
- You often must pay an additional fee, called a co-payment, for services you receive.
- Increasingly, employee health plans also include a deductible, an amount you must pay before the insurance kicks in.
- Some small businesses will be required to provide employee health insurance starting in 2015. These businesses may be eligible for government subsidies to help cover the costs under the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). For details, see Small Business Health Options Program.
Individual Health Insurance
- If you are not eligible for a subsidy, you can buy health insurance on your own, either through your state’s Health Insurance Exchange or via the private market.
- You will need to do a lot of careful shopping. You will have many choices regarding what is covered, deductibles, copays, and so on.
- You can compare offers you find on your Health Insurance exchange with information on web sites like healthinsurancefinders.com, healthinsurance.com, and eHealthinsurance.com, which offer details and estimates of many health insurance plans.
Health savings accounts (HSAs) may go with some health insurance plans that have high deductibles.
- These plans require you to deposit money in a “health savings account.” You pay significant amounts of money from this account before the insurance company begins to pick up the bill.
- Money you put into these accounts is not taxed by the government; and if you use it for health care, the money is not taxed when you withdraw it.
- These accounts may be a good idea if you are in good health and don’t expect to have a lot of medical expenses. Otherwise, their usefulness is debatable.
- Full information about HSAs is at irs.gov.
Medicaid and CHIP/S-CHIP Medicaid is a government health insurance program for people whose incomes are near or below the poverty level.
Children’s Health Insurance Program, also called CHIP or S-CHIP, provides health and dental coverage for children whose families who cannot afford private insurance but who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
- Although federally funded, Medicaid is a state-administered program, so rules for eligibility and kinds of coverage vary from state to state.
- Go to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and select your state for information about your state’s program; or google your state, plus “local Medicaid office”; or try www.medicaid.gov.
- Medicaid eligibility rules are complex, and so it probably is best if you talk to a trained person rather than try to figure them out by yourself.
- If you have Medicaid coverage, it may be difficult to find the service you need. In many states, Medicaid reimbursement rates are very low, and so doctors may refuse to see Medicaid patients.
- Like Medicaid, the CHIP/S-CHIP program is administered by the individual states.
- Rules and coverage details differ from state to state.
- To find out whether your children are eligible, call 1-877-543-7669; or go to insurekidsnow.gov (called “Find a Provider”), where you can click on your state and find an email contact address.
If You Have Insurance
Health care providers—doctors, clinics, hospitals, and so on—have dozens of different agreements with different health insurance companies.
- If the providers are not on a given insurer’s approved list, the insurer won’t pay them.
- Different insurers reimburse at different rates for the same service.
- Some insurers won’t pay for services that others will pay for.
- Some insurers require the provider to get permission for a service in advance. If your doctors or labs don’t have the right paperwork, they won’t be paid.
All this inconsistency is the insurers’ and providers’ headache, not yours, but it can make it harder for you to find the doctor or service you need.
You will be expected to show your health insurance card anywhere you go for medical care. The card not only contains information about your insurance company, but also can be a key to your medical records. Letting someone else use your health insurance card is illegal and also can endanger the borrower, who has a different medical history.
What will the medical treatment or service cost? Often, nobody seems to know. If you ask, you may get a blank stare or a simple refusal to state a price—or even an estimate—in advance of a procedure. This response is partly because
- Payments vary, depending on whether or not you are insured and on what kind of a deal the insurer has made with the medical provider.
- The doctor you are asking may not know what a treatment or procedure will cost because she has never actually seen a bill or payment for the procedure.
- And, of course, there is an element of uncertainty in some procedures.
If You Don’t Have Health Insurance
After January 1, 2014, those who do not have health insurance, with few exceptions, will be subject to a penalty fee. The fee will be phased in, starting at $95 or 1% of taxable income in 2014 and rising to $695 or 2.5% of taxable income in 2016. You may be exempted from this fee only if you:
Even if you don’t have to pay a penalty, there could be grave financial consequences for lacking health coverage. If you must seek care, health care providers can charge you any amount they want, often much more than they would get from insurance companies for the same care. If you don’t have insurance, try to negotiate an affordable fee before you receive care. And if possible, try to get treatment at free or low-cost clinics, which are available in most cities and in many county seats.
- Have been without coverage for less than three months;
- Claim religious objections;
- Are an American Indian, undocumented immigrant, or incarcerated
- Have an income less than the standard deduction plus the personal exemption ($10,000 for an individual in 2013);
- Live in a state where the lowest cost plan charges more than 8% of your income.
Free and Low-Cost Clinics
If your problem is urgent, there is another alternative.
- These clinics serve people on Medicaid, or those who are ineligible for Medicaid but whose incomes are low and who are not insured.
- Clinic staff can often tell you if you are eligible for Medicaid or Medicare and help you sign up.
- Even “free” clinics may charge a small fee based on your income.
- Some clinics will provide a taxi voucher or bus pass to reduce travel costs for low-income patients, depending on their medical conditions.
- Some free clinics are government run; some are connected with university medical schools; some are independent.
- Like any other medical service, the quality of these clinics varies, depending on their funding and the doctors and other people who staff them. If you are not satisfied with the services you receive at a free clinic, shop for another one.
- To find free clinics near you, call or look up your County Health Service agency on the Internet. Alternatively, FreeMedicalCamps.com is a Web site that lists free clinics.
- A common problem with free clinics is a long wait for services. You might need to decide whether you can wait that long for help. It’s usually worth the wait if you want ongoing services, such as a pediatrician for children or a general practitioner for yourself, or if you have a chronic condition like diabetes that requires consistent monitoring.
Hospital Emergency Rooms
If you cannot wait for the appointment offered at a free clinic—if you are in pain, bleeding, or having trouble breathing, for instance, go to a hospital emergency room.
- Hospital emergency rooms generally are required to treat all comers, regardless of ability to pay.
- This requirement often means crowded waiting rooms. People with less urgent problems, like sore throats, must wait while people with more urgent problems, like bleeding wounds, are treated first.
- But you will be seen and you will get care. Don’t give up. Your sore throat needs treatment because it could be the onset or symptom of a serious illness.
Prescription Drugs And Insurance
Generics and Brand Names
Drug makers who develop and patent a new drug have the exclusive right to manfacture and sell it for several years after introducing it to the market . This is the “brand” name drug. When this right expires, anyone can manufacture and sell an equivalent drug, or “generic.”
- Usually, a generic version of a drug is cheaper than the brand drug and equally effective.
- Generics have different names than the brand name, which can be confusing. For instance, the generic version of “Zocor” is “simvastatin,” but it is essentially the same medication.
- When a doctor prescribes medication for you, you will probably save money if you can get the generic version of that medication.
Prescription Drug Costs
If your insurance includes drug coverage:
If your prescriptions are not covered by insurance or if you don’t have prescription insurance, you may find significant savings by shopping carefully before you buy:
- It’s important to check before buying whether the plan will apply to medications you’re already taking.
- You should also know about any “deductible,” or amount you must pay before the insurance company picks up the bill for your medication.
- The insurer may cover only the generic version of a prescription drug.
You can check out the prices for a given drug in your area at goodrx.com and rxpricequotes.com , two online sites that compare the prices of many common prescription drugs at your local pharmacies.
- Large companies like Costco, Walmart, and Target may offer very low prices on prescriptions in order to bring customers into the store.
- Drugstore chains make deals with manufacturers of generic drugs. Manufacturers price their products differenlty, so one chain may have a bargain price on Drug A, while a second chain has a better price on Drug B.
- Small local drugstores may get deals through independent suppliers.
Getting Good Health Care
Whether or not you have health insurance, and no matter what kind of insurance you have if you are covered, it’s important to know how to get the best possible health care. You may be able to treat most minor injuries and illnesses yourself; but for medical emergencies, routine health care, and immunizations, you will need to see medical professionals with the appropriate training and experience.
Minor Injuries and Illnesses
You can treat many minor injuries and illnesses at home. To do so, it helps to have basic first aid supplies on hand:
For information about first aid for specific types of injuries, and guidance about seeing a doctor, you can look at the Mayo Clinic's First Aid site.
- ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin, for pain relief and to reduce fever (note the cautions on the label because not all are suitable at all times);
- ice or a prepared cold pack, to reduce swelling and pain (a bag of frozen peas will work);
- antibacterial wipes;
- band-aids, sterile gauze pads, gauze bandage, and adhesive tape;
- antibiotic ointment;
- hydrocortisone cream, to reduce pain from stings and rashes.
Colds, coughs, sore throats, headaches, and upset stomachs usually don’t need professional attention unless they persist longer than usual, are unusually severe, or involve a fever higher than 102 degrees.
For information about specific symptoms, you can go to sites such as WebMD, or simply google “When to see a doctor.”
- Most of these illnesses are best treated by simple remedies such as
- plenty of fluids to relieve congestion;
- ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin to bring down a fever or reduce pain
- cough drops for a sore throat.
- For all medications, read and follow the instructions on the label, and take care not to exceed recommended dosages.
- Respect warnings about conditions or medications that indicate using the medication is not advisable.
If you need immediate help—if someone is unconscious, bleeding heavily, in severe pain, has difficulty breathing, or may have broken bones—don’t delay. You can either take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room or pick up a phone, dial 911, describe the problem, and ask for an ambulance. Ambulance transportation can be expensive. If the person can manage it, your car or a taxi will be cheaper and just as fast. Some hospitals will provide taxi vouchers to reduce costs for people in need.
Problems such as dizziness, disorientation (not knowing who or where one is), and drug or alcohol intoxication may or may not be emergencies, depending on the degree and duration of the symptoms. Use your judgment, but if you are unsure, get help—don’t wait.
Routine Health Care
Whether or not you have a health complaint, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with a primary-care physician as a new patient when you enroll in a health plan.
Because of the insurance issues described earlier, it can be hard to find a primary care physician. For instance, doctors may limit the number of patients from a given health plan. Or because the plan doesn’t reimburse them for the service, they may offer few openings for routine physicals for patients from your plan after they accept you as a patient.
- Routine health checks can save you a world of trouble by ensuring that you get and keep vaccinations up to date and by providing preventive measures. A flu shot, for instance, may save you from missing a week of work. An inexpensive medication to lower your cholesterol may stave off heart disease.
- Your doctor should check for these kinds of issues and order any necessary tests and inoculations.
- Records of a routine visit will serve as a baseline to help track changes during later visits.
Although assigned to a full-fledged doctor, you may find yourself actually seeing an intern, resident, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. Not to worry: Interns are recently graduated doctors. Residents are doctors advancing through specialty training. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners have undergone specialized training and have passed a rigorous examination. And all are supervised by a fully qualified doctor.
Immunizations are preventive treatments that protect you from a wide range of diseases, not only measles and mumps, but even some sexually transmitted diseases. Some vaccinations, such as tetanus, need to be repeated at regular intervals to maintain effectiveness. Vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and your children from common, serious illnesses.
- If you were not vaccinated as a child, or if you are unsure what vaccinations you received, it’s a good idea to raise the topic at your first visit. Doctors may assume that you have more protection than you really do.
- If you are caring for children who were not vaccinated, you may not be able to enroll them in school until their immunizations are up to date.
- For detailed information about vaccinations, a good place to start is the federal Center for Disease Control.
We often neglect our teeth, perhaps because we tend to think of them as unimportant. Lose one, so what? There are lots more. But it’s not just a question of losing a tooth. Toothaches may signal major infection or other serious illness. Pain of any kind is a signal to pay attention, and pain in the teeth is no exception.
Many health plans do not cover dental services, but there are discount dental plans that will reduce the cost of care. Web sites such as dentalclinicmanager.com provide information about these plans.
If you can’t afford a dental plan, look for a free or low-cost dental clinic. If there is a local chapter of the American Dental Association, its representatives can tell you where to go.
Some people naturally have strong, healthy teeth, and if you are lucky enough to be one of them, the dentist can take a back seat until you have the time, money, and energy to think about it. But do not ignore pain in your teeth.
- Universities with dental schools usually sponsor clinics.
- Some social service agencies in major metropolitan areas also offer dental clinics.
- Always call beforehand. Unless it’s an emergency, there may be a long wait to get an appointment.
Counseling and Therapy
You can get counseling from a variety of professionals. Counselors or therapists can help you learn to manage the stress of adapting to your new life. They also can help if a psychological or emotional problem is affecting your functioning.
To be reimbursed by your insurer for these services, the professional must determine that you have a treatable condition. The list below describes different titles of mental health professionals, but all have similar qualifications and credentials. The following section (Finding and Evaluating a Health Care Provider) applies to all those job titles listed here.
- Clinical social workers provide most non-medical counseling and therapy. A licensed clinical social worker is qualified to diagnose and treat all mental illnesses, but is not licensed to prescribe medication.
- Counselors and family therapists are also licensed mental health professionals. Depending on the state in which they work, there may be some limitations on the types of problems they can treat.
- Psychiatric or mental health nurses generally work in hospitals or health agencies, and their work focuses primarily on emergency care, diagnosis, and medication. However, they also may engage in private practice, providing therapy.
- Psychologists are mental health professionals trained and qualified to administer diagnostic tests, such as IQ tests, in addition to providing counseling or therapy. In some states, psychologists may be licensed to write prescriptions.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors with advanced training and certification in mental illness. In most states, only doctors—and therefore, among mental health professionals, only psychiatrists—are licensed to write prescriptions. Most psychiatrists no longer offer therapy. They generally provide a diagnostic interview and will give you a prescription for medication if they think it is indicated.
Finding and Evaluating Health Care Providers
Finding a good health care provider may be easy if your health care plan offers a list of approved providers, or if you have friends or co-workers who can give you recommendations. But if you are on your own, or if your friends and co-workers don’t know a professional in the area you need, finding a good provider can be tough. Your insurance company’s list of approved providers may include dozens of names, but little information other than their credentials. You may want to check out medlineplus.gov, a government Web site that features a directory of health professionals by location.
Even if you have a list or a personal recommendation from someone you trust, it’s up to you, once you have seen a provider, to decide whether or not you want to go back. Following are some suggestions to help you make that decision.
Health Providers’ Credentials
A license or certificate issued by the state indicates that a provider has completed the training required for competence in the field. Health professionals who participate in insurance plans are monitored for credentials by the insurer. Hospitals and clinics are responsible for ensuring that their workers have appropriate credentials.
- All health care providers, from doctors to X-ray technicians, should have a current license.
- Their license should be prominently displayed in their place of work.
- If you are seeing a specialist, such as a pediatrician (a children’s doctor) or a surgeon, he should have a certificate in the specialty for which he is treating you.
If you are seeing a health care provider in private practice, you should expect to see these documents—usually framed and hanging on the office wall, along with various diplomas. If you do not, ask about them. If the doctor does not produce the actual document, you can either check with your state licensing authority or find another doctor (usually the easier course of action).
Lack of credentials is a very big red flag, but a license does not tell you all you need to know.
- There is no national licensing authority for health professionals. Consequently, there have been cases in which a doctor whose license was revoked in one state simply moved to another and started over.
- A doctor may be “board-certified” in a specialty that doesn’t apply to your case. She may not have kept up with recent developments. Or she simply may not be competent, despite her credentials.
- Hospitals and doctors who work with each other may have reasons to “work with” a colleague who is falling short, rather than publicizing the colleague’s shortcomings. This may be good for the doctor in question, but it’s not so great for that doctor’s patients.
Quality of Care
Quality of care varies widely, even among credentialed professionals. A high fee or a Harvard diploma doesn’t mean you will get the best care. A crowded, shabby, free clinic doesn’t mean you will get inferior care.
The best source of information is a friend or family member who has had good results from that doctor, who likes the doctor and the people who work in the doctor’s office. Often, however, we don’t have that valuable kind of personal information and must decide for ourselves.
Here are some ideas to help you with your decision. Because you may be seeing a professional other than a doctor, the generic term provider covers all the key professionals.
- First impressions. When you call to make an appointment,
- Is the person you speak with polite and patient?
- Does he answer your questions?
- Does he tell you what records, referrals, or other documents to bring?
- In general, does he seem knowledgeable and friendly?
- When you arrive for your appointment,
- Is the waiting room clean?
- Is the receptionist polite and helpful about the forms you need to fill out?
- Does the office staff keep your and others’ private information private?
- If there is a delay of more than 15 minutes, does someone tell you that the provider is running late?
- The meeting:
- Is the meeting or examination room clean?
- Is there adequate and appropriate privacy?
- For a physical examination, does the provider wear gloves?
- Is the equipment clean, and does it appear to be in good condition?
- Do support personnel seem knowledgeable and competent?
- How well does the provider listen to you? Does she
- Interrupt or cut you off?
- Question what you report?
- Ignore or belittle your questions?
- Do you feel respected?
- Does the provider get a thorough history about any problems? If the problems are physical, does the provider conduct a thorough and careful examination?
- Does the provider clearly explain the reasons for any recommendations, referrals to other professionals, or medicines prescribed in terms that you can understand? Do the tests and recommendations seem appropriate?
- Does the provider answer your questions about recommendations, referrals, and medications?
- Are the recommendations and referrals realistic and practical? Does the provider give you necessary contact information to follow up on referrals?
These criteria are not outlandishly demanding or perfectionist. Still, you may not find them all met everywhere you go, and that may or may not matter. It’s up to you to decide, upon reflection, whether or not you received good care.
- You may have really liked the provider, but after thinking about it, you may realize you didn’t get a thorough examination.
- A doctor may have seemed brusque and hurried, but after thinking about it, you may decide you actually received excellent care.
- If you are looking at an ongoing relationship, as in counseling, it’s important to like your provider. If this is a one-time event, such as a surgical procedure, or your health care coverage tightly limits your access to care, the balance changes.
Alternative or Complementary Medicine
“Alternative” or “complementary” treatment refers to a variety of medications and treatments that are not science based. Most have not been shown objectively to work. Some of these alternative treatments, such as Chinese herbals, derive from long-standing practices of other cultures. Others, like faith healing, are derivatives of religious beliefs. Some others are simply inventions of people who, perhaps deliberately misleading themselves and others, make unsubstantiated claims for their “treatments.”
Many people claim to be helped by these alternative treatments, and indeed they may have improved or even been cured. But the improvement is not necessarily because of the treatment. People may benefit from a common characteristic called “the placebo effect,” which makes them not only feel better, but actually get better if they think or expect that they will. In controlled scientific tests of a treatment, an important measure is whether the number of people who improve during the treatment is significantly greater than that of the people who actually are not receiving the treatment but think they are.
There is little objective information about whether or why alternative treatments work. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government health research center, has been conducting evaluations of some of these treatments. Go to nih.gov and enter the search term “alternative medicine” to check out objective findings about specific treatments.
If you are using or are interested in alternative treatment, it is important to keep a few cautions in mind:
- Herbal medications can be as powerful and dangerous as conventional prescriptions. Learn about the risks before you use them.
- Alternative treatments may not mix well with conventional treatments. Be sure to tell your doctor about any alternative treatment when you are discussing a problem or a possible medication.
- Alternative “medicines” are not regulated for content or quality. They may contain pollutants, such as lead, or other unlisted ingredients.
- View alternative medicine practitioners’ claims and credentials with appropriate skepticism. There is no formal procedure to assess their knowledge and skills.
Decisions about health care may be complex and difficult, but they are your decisions, not anyone else’s. Good information is critical for good decisions. Luckily, a lot of information is available about almost any health problem you may have, as well as many ideas about how to get help to treat it.
In addition to the Web sites listed in specific sections above, this section lists a few other reputable Web sites where you can go for more information.
- Because even the most reputable source of information may be temporarily out of date or may have accidentally omitted useful information, it’s a good idea to check two or more sources when you’re researching a health question.
- As with all Internet sources, you need to be careful about the accuracy of the information you find, and to look for the fullest, most recent, and most reliable information.
- Sites that “guarantee” a cure or offer a simple solution to any (or all) health problems are unreliable. If there really is a cure-all, it won’t be hidden in an obscure Web site.
Health Information Online
National Institutes of Health (NIH), has authoritative information about medical and mental health conditions and treatments, and many links to other sites’ information about specific conditions.
MedlinePlus, combines resources of the National Library of Medicine with those of the NIH. In addition to information about medical issues, MedlinePlus provides a directory of health care providers that you can sort by location, a medical encyclopedia and dictionary, and interactive tutorials on major health topics.
WebMD.com, a commercial Web site, has much useful information about health in general, and about many specific diseases. It also has news, feature articles, blogs, message boards, and advertisements, as well as plain old information.
Information About Specific Diseases
Many Web sites focus on specific areas of the body, or on widespread and/or chronic diseases. Such sites include the following:
American Cancer Society
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institute of Mental Health
The National Association on Mental Illness
Patient Advocate Foundation, 1-800-532-5274, provides free help to people with chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening ailments, addressing such issues as access to care, maintaining employment, and preserving financial stability. The site offers chat conferences with a professional case manager for personalized attention.
You can also seek support through various hot lines and online groups devoted to particular topics. To find support groups for a specfic condition, google "support group" plus the name of the condition.