What is indigent care?
Indigent care, also sometimes referred to as charity care, is a free or low-cost type of medical care. It's available to certain individuals depending on their location’s cost of living, number of dependents, necessary lifestyle expenses, and income. Nonprofit hospitals are required to offer indigent care, and many for-profit hospitals also offer it.
To receive indigent care, an individual must apply for it—it is almost never provided automatically. It’s possible to be eligible for indigent care but still receive a standard bill from the hospital. Individuals may apply for indigent care at any time, whether before treatment has started or if services have already been rendered and a standard bill has been sent.
Why is indigent care important in healthcare?
Unexpected medical expenses can significantly impact a patient's finances, especially if the patient does not have health insurance when unexpected medical services are required. Indigent care acts as a safety net for low-income individuals who need medical care but cannot afford it in a traditional sense. In many cases, indigent care can be the difference between becoming overburdened with medical debt and having no or very little debt at all.