Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Taking Care of You

Written by Cat Hartwell
Fleeing the nest can be a frightening concept. Not only do you have to figure out what to do to pay rent (and hopefully not hate the job that it takes to pay it), but you also have to figure out how to eat, how to set up and pay bills, how to decorate your new home. You get to do the fun stuff like discovering the coffee shop in your neighborhood with the cutest boys or girls, the best places to shop within your budget, and which spot you and your friends feel most at home catching up on your gossip.

Fleeing the nest can be a frightening concept for a young woman. Not only do you have to figure out what to do to pay rent (and hopefully not hate the job that it takes to pay it), but you also have to figure out how to eat, how to set up and pay bills, how to decorate your new home. You get to do the fun stuff like discovering the coffee shop in your neighborhood with the cutest boys or girls, the best places to shop within your budget, and which spot you and your friends feel most at home catching up on your gossip.

Unfortunately, when you move out on your own, you will inevitably have your first time being sick away from mom’s noodle soup and care. Today, that “first” can be even more intimidating as many young women (and men) find themselves not only out from their parents’ roofs, but also out from their parents’ health insurance.

The latest U.S. census estimates that over 47 million Americans are currently uninsured. Of that number, about 21.9 million fall into the group of the working uninsured who make less than $50, 000 a year. That means the aspiring actor/writer you know who also happens to also be a waitress, the cute painter who works at the café you love, and the girl who just sold you your favorite pair of jeans. You don’t have to be below poverty to fall into this very gray area in American health care, and the good news is that until the current healthcare situation is resolved, you aren’t completely between a rock and a hard place. There are a great number of resources out there to take advantage of and provide for, at least, the basics.

So… it’s the first time you are really living on your own and you wake up one morning with a barking cough, the cold sweats, and your body feels like a semi hit you. You have no idea what to do or where to go to see what the problem is. Oh yeah, and to make matters worse, as of last month you no longer qualify for mom and dad’s insurance. What do you do, and where do you even begin to find a doctor that you can afford?

The good news is that most metro areas have clinics and hospitals available to the public that offer a sliding scale. Here in New York City for example, there is Bellevue Hospital, which offers a sliding scale policy to anyone who can prove his or her income. Being on the sliding scale can make a trip to the doctor as cheap as $15 and only goes up to $60. The hospital also offers an onsite pharmacy where medicine can be dropped off and picked up and comes at a greatly reduced price. At Bellevue, even if you break a leg, the medical treatment will be billed at your sliding scale reduction rate once you have registered with social services.

Also in New York City, the Institute of Family Health offers a sliding scale for primary care, which means you can go there for anything from treating strep and the common flu to having a small cyst removed. They also offer basic gynecological care and have an onsite pharmacy where you can get greatly reduced birth control and the morning-after pill. The Sidney Hillman Clinic offers a Free Clinic on Saturdays by appointment, and recently provided a “Women’s Day” during which they had free routine gyno exams, pap smears, hpv testing, pregnancy tests, and treatment of other problems like irregular bleeding and pain.

Obviously, New York City is a special case and is going to have more resources for the uninsured than most places, but there is a site that anyone can visit online and look for similar clinics and hospitals in their area. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a guide where you can find any and all clinics and health facilities that have sliding scale and free care near you. The website is, and it lists information on clinics in all fifty states and some of the territories. With a little research you can even find places that offer reduced price dental care. For example, here in New York, the NYU School of Dentistry offers walk in service and can be as cheap as $65 for a basic visit.

Now, say you’ve been living on your own for a while and feel pretty confident and settled in your life. You’ve even met a special someone and want to make sure that you are on birth control so that when the time is right, you are prepared. You don’t have any health insurance and aren’t really ready to pay an arm and a leg just to get on the pill, so what now? Head straight for Planned Parenthood. Seriously, it is one of the strongest health resources for women of every income and age group. Planned Parenthood offers various services for women in all states (go to to find locations near you). Depending on the clinic, you can have a consultation at Planned Parenthood for everything from annual check up exams, cancer screenings, breast exams, emergency contraception (Plan B), various methods of birth control (including the pill, the patch, the implant, the ring…they have it all) and they offer both medical and surgical abortive services. If you haven’t seen a gynecologist in a while, it’s a good idea to go in and make sure everything is copasetic in the lady parts, and Planned Parenthood is a place that every woman should be able to afford to do just that. Planned Parenthood is another sliding scale organization, and if you qualify for the scale, you should come armed with proof of ID, social security card, proof of income, and proof of address to register. 

Recently I talked to Dr. Max Michael, a professor in public health policy who is also in charge of the public health care program at Cooper Green clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. I asked him if there is anything an uninsured young person can do to make sure that if they fall off their bike and break their leg, they don’t have to go into a huge amount of debt to have the broken leg mended. Dr. Michael pointed out, “Well, we all know what it is that we can do to avoid major health issues. Eat well, exercise, wear seatbelts, practice safe sex, and avoid drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, as far as emergency healthcare goes, there really isn’t anything you can do to avoid high costs.  There are a number of insurance plans out there that do offer emergency/catastrophic coverage. However most of these plans are still going to cost around a couple hundred dollars a month, and to a person who makes not much more than that, is it worth it to invest the money into something that probably isn’t going to happen? It’s like a game of Russian roulette, and it’s one that you have a good chance of winning.”

Anyone who does want to take the extra step and invest in a catastrophic plan can look at local insurance providers in their area and see what plan best suits their needs. Blue Cross Blue Shield is a national insurance company that definitely has a catastrophic policy option. Freelancers Union and New York Cares are also good resources for back up insurance plans, but like Dr. Michael points out, a person has to decide whether or not it’s worth it to spend such a large portion of one’s income on something that may never happen.

Unfortunately, we live amidst a health care crisis in this country, as has been made obvious in the amount of coverage that health policy is receiving in the 2008 electoral debates. Hopefully the next president will take actions to start ensuring that more Americans can get health care. Until then, it’s up to us to look out for ourselves when we get sick, or when we need to grab a morning after pill, or even see a therapist to clear our heads. As my mother always says, now that you’re grown up, it’s up to you to look after your health. No one else is gong to do it for you. Fortunately, there are some resources out there making sure that you don’t have to go broke in the process.

Noodle Soup for the Uninsured
By Jesse Sposato

So, now we know there are resources out there, but how exactly do we get to them?

Resources Mentioned in Article:
Bellevue Hospital Center
Bellevue Hospital Center provides high quality, respectful and accessible health care services to the people of our neighboring community and throughout New York City. Care is provided to all who require clinical and social support, regardless of ability to pay. Our tradition of public health, education, and research continues as our guiding principle.
462 1st Ave.
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212-562-1000

The Institute for Family Health
We provide high-quality health care to underserved populations; sponsor innovative training programs for health professionals; engage in primary care health services research; and participate in health policy development at the national, state, and local levels.
16 E. 16th St.
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212-633-0800
Fax: 212-691-4610

Sidney Hillman Family Practice
Services: adult medicine, pediatric, dental, women's health, physicals, immunizations, prenatal, disease screening, HIV, mental health, social services
Cost: sliding scale fee
16 E. 16th Street
New York, NY, 10003
Phone: 212-924-7744

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is the United States government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.
200 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20201

NYU College of Dentistry
NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) endeavors through its faculty, students and alumni to improve the health of the highly diverse populations in New York City and around the world. NYUCD provides quality, affordable patient care to New Yorkers of all ages and from all walks of life.
345 E. 24th St.
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 212-998-9800

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is the nation’s leading women’s health care provider, educator, and advocate, serving women, men, teens, and families. For more than 90 years, we’ve done more than any other organization in the United States to improve women’s health and safety, prevent unintended pregnancies, and advance the right and ability of individuals and families to make informed and responsible choices.

Cooper Green Mercy Hospital Clinic
As the General Medicine Clinic, Clinic A is one of many outpatient services provided through Jefferson Health Systems. It is the entry point into the Health Care System offered by Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. With your health and wellness in mind, Clinic A offers preventive medicine services such as physical exams, vaccinations, nutrition education, back injury prevention, and safety guidelines and TB skin testing.
1515 6th Ave. S
Birmingham, AL 35233
Phone: 205-930-3200
Fax: 205-930-3497

A Few More Favorites of Our Own:
Feminist Women's Health Center
We have a vision of a world where all women freely make their own decisions regarding their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality—a world where women can fulfill their own unique potential and live healthy whole lives.
Note: This site even has a special page, “For Teens & Young Women!” where they answer questions about your body, and direct you to articles by young women, such as, “Do you have a healthy body image?” from MySistahs.

The Yeast Infection Homepage
Okay ladies, can the chatter and listen up. First, a few words about this homepage. I want to point out right away that if you are offended by blunt, uncensored talk; have no sense of humor about female problems; or are looking only for corporate-sponsored, FDA-approved information about yeast infections, you've come to the wrong place. Please go directly to the Monistat homepage. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. You really don't want to read any further. For the rest of us, I mean, YEAST.
Note: This site is badass, means business, and does not hold back. And it’s very riot grrrl, anarchist, cute-ass girl friendly, just the way we like things!

Scarleteen is owned and operated by Heather Corinna and a handful of international volunteers, many who are young adults themselves, and currently serves from 20,000-30,000 teens and young adults, as well as parents and educators, every day of the year, 24 hours each day. While plenty of adults also use Scarleteen to glean sexuality information for themselves, Scarleteen is complied and written for a young adult population, and much of our information is more appropriate for teens than for older adults.
Note: This page is a real highlight where teens ask sticky questions about sex and their bodies. Lots ‘o questions on the pill, and for a special treat, they answer questions about brown spotting and green poop too. Yay!

GrannyMed Home Remedies Guide

Our online home remedies guide will help you find the right natural cure for your problem. We've got thousands of homemade medicines and health tips for common illnesses. The alternative medicines and homeopathic recipes can be made at home from natural ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and seed.
Note: I know this sounds weird, and at first glance, you might just notice advice on hair loss and hemorrhoids, but I swear, if you keep going, this site tells you how to fix pretty much everything on your own—from sucking on a lollypop or peppermint candy to help with period cramps, to applying honey immediately after being stung by a bee (go figure).

Also, listed below are some other things you can do that may seem more obvious, but still we forget to take these precautions all the time.

—Wear a helmet when riding your bike! Yes, even “just in your neighborhood.” One of my best friend’s got hit by a car on her bike, and she was only one block away from her house! And stay away from doing silly things like wearing flip-flops when riding—I know it gets real hot in the summertime, but try to cover up as much as you can for protection.

—Make sure to keep things like Emergen-C, Airborne, Echinacea, and other cold preventatives around the house so that when you feel like something is coming on, or you’re around your best friend who just won’t stop sneezing, you can plan ahead.

—Garlic Tea. I know this is kind of, well smelly—it is—but when I’m sick and not planning a date the next day, I chop up about as much garlic as I can, a few individual cloves (once I got “clove,” confused with “bulb” and I chopped up an entire bulb of garlic for my tea—I don’t recommend…), heat up some water, and then add chopped ginger, lemon, and honey to taste. It actually doesn’t taste as bad as you think because you’ve got so much other good stuff going on in there.

—Kombucha, a popular health-promoting beverage made by fermenting tea. Packed with a list of vitamins (and helpful acids), kombucha is known to help with stress and insomnia, relieve major headaches, regulate the appetite, reduce fat, and add energy. You can make your own, or buy it at a health food store. My friend recently made his own, and I’ll admit, it looked a bit gooey in the pitcher, but once I got my own bottle home with me, it tasted pretty delicious. ‘Feeling better already!

And don’t forget to take vitamins, practice safe sex if you’re gonna have it, and please, remember to eat your fruits and vegetables!

Illustration by Jessica Lopez 

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