Free Health Screenings

Outside of eating a healthy diet, regular exercise and not smoking, health screenings are the best way to stay healthy as you age. But for the 47 million Americans living without health insurance, and millions more who are underinsured, health screenings are a luxury most people can't afford. Or maybe they don't have to.

Today, there's a wide range of free or low-cost health screenings provided through various national, state and local organizations, government agencies and even businesses. Most free screenings are offered at hospitals, health fairs, pharmacies or senior centers, and are available to everyone. However, some screening programs are offered only to those with certain medical conditions, low incomes or without health insurance.

Where to Look

The best way to find free or low-cost health screenings in your area is by calling your city, county or state health department to ask if they are planning or know of any upcoming health fairs or free screening programs. You should also check with your local hospitals, pharmacies, senior centers or area agency on aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number).

National and local health associations that focus on particular disease may also help you locate screenings. For example, to search for free or low-cost cancer screenings call the American Cancer Society (800-227-2345) or National Cancer Institute (800-422-6237). Or to look for diabetes screenings call your local American Diabetes Association office (call 800-342-2383 to get your number) - many cities host diabetes expos that provide free screenings.

In the meantime, here are some national and regional screening programs and services you should know about.


Legs for Life. This program offers free screenings for peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a "hardening of the arteries" condition that affects an estimated 8 to 10 million Americans. Individuals with PAD have much greater risk for heart attack, stroke and even leg amputation. People in their 50's or older, who feel cramping or pain in their legs while walking, or have other risk factors - smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, having a family history of heart disease or National Screening for Vascular Diseasediabetes - should be screened. Screenings take about 10 minutes using the painless, ankle brachial index test. Some sites can also test for related diseases like abdominal aortic aneurysm and carotid artery disease. Most screenings take place in September and require an appointment., 800-488-7284.

The Society for Vascular Surgery is a resource that maintains a list of 21 clinics and health care facilities around the country that offers a variety of free or low-cost vascular screenings.

WISEWOMAN program. For low income, uninsured and underinsured women between the ages of 40 and 64, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers free blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes screenings through their program in 20 states., 800-2324636.

Sister to Sister Foundation sponsors National Women's Healthy Heart Fairs in 18 major cities around the country in February. The fairs offer free cardiovascular screenings for blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, glucose, triglycerides and waist circumference., 888-718-8033.


The American Academy of Dermatology offers free skin cancer screenings done by hundreds of volunteer dermatologists across the U.S. Call 888-462-3376 or visit to find a screening in your area.

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery also offers free screenings in May, June and July., 847-956-0900.

Skin Cancer Foundation operates a nationwide "Road to Healthy Skin Tour" that starts in May and runs through October., 800-754-6490.


National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This CDC program is for low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women. It offers free or low-cost mammograms and pap tests year-round in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and 12 American Indian/Alaska Native tribes or tribal organizations., 800-232-4636.

National Mammography Day. Oct. 17, 2008 hundreds of hospitals and clinics across the country offer free or low-cost mammograms to women in need. To locate a screening site, visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Web site at and click on "Find a Mammography Center Near You." Once you locate one you'll need to call to find out if they are offering free screenings, and if so, schedule an appointment.


Prostate Cancer Awareness Week. Each year, during the week of September 14 - 20, 2008 the Prostate Cancer Educational Council coordinates with hundreds of local sites across America offering free or low-cost screenings to all men over age 45, or to high risk men (African Americans or those that have a family history of the disease) over 40. The screening consists of a simple PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test and digital rectal exam., 866-477-6788.

The National Prostate Cancer Coalition and the Drive Against Prostate Cancer also offers free screenings on mobile screening units that tour around the country., 888-245-9455.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently offers five colorectal cancer screening demonstration programs that provide free or low-cost colon and rectal cancer screening to those ages 50 and older with no insurance and low incomes (see The programs are in Baltimore (866-632-6566); St. Louis (314-879-6392); King, Clallam and Jefferson counties in Washington, but are expected to expand to the entire state by the end of the year (800-756-5437); Nebraska (800-532-2227); and Suffolk County, New York (631-444-7644).

If you don't live in those areas call the Colorectal Cancer Coalition at 877-427-2111 to find out about screening options in your area.


Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP). Sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation, this program free screening for those considered to be at elevated risk - adults with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease. They also offer free screenings in at least 20 additional cities on World Kidney Day, March 12, 2009., 800-622-9010.

The American Kidney Fund also offers free kidney screenings to anyone 18 and older in the Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C., metropolitan regions., 866-300-2900.


American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology sponsors free asthma screenings, mostly done in May in more than 250 locations across the U.S. as part of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. During a screening, participants will answer several questions about their breathing issues, take a lung function test that involves blowing into a tube, and meet with an allergist to determine whether a more thorough exam and diagnosis is needed. Or if you already know you have asthma, the screening can help you find out if your disease is under control.


If you have concerns about memory loss or have a family history of Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America offers free, confidential memory screenings on National Memory Screening Day Nov. 18, 2008. The test takes about 10 minutes and consists of questions to assess your memory, language skills, thinking ability and other intellectual functions. It's important to know that this screening does not diagnose an illness, but can flag a potential problem. Those with problems are encouraged to see a doctor for further evaluation., 866-232-8484.


Prevent Blindness America offers free vision screenings in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Open to everyone, these screenings are not meant to replace an eye doctor's exam, but it can help identify people who are at risk for eye disease.; 800-331-2020.


National Depression Screening Day on Oct. 10, 2008, presented by Screening for Mental Health Inc. offers hundreds of free screenings nationwide for depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.


Most health departments and many health care facilities provide free or low-cost screenings for HIV AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. To find a testing site go to, 800-458-5231.


National retail pharmacy chain Walgreens is also currently offering a free health screening tour across the U.S. called Take Care Health Tour. This 300-city, 12-month tour is open to everyone, and offers six free screenings: total cholesterol levels; blood pressure; bone density; glucose levels; body mass index and waist circumference., 866-484-8687.


Medicare beneficiaries are also provided free or low-cost health screenings through Medicare's expanding array of preventive services. Medicare covers a one-time "Welcome to Medicare" physical; cardiovascular screenings that checks cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels; abdominal aortic aneurysm screening; colorectal cancer tests; mammograms; pap smear and pelvic exam; prostate cancer screening; bone mass measurements to determine if you are a risk for osteoporosis; diabetes screenings; glaucoma tests; and flu, pneumococcal, and Hepatitis B shots.

Out-of-pocket costs for these preventive services will vary. If you have Medicare Part B, some services are completely free, while others will cost you 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount. If you get your health care coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), you'll need to call your plan for details.

For more information visit, or call 800-633-4227 and ask for a free copy of the "Guide to Medicare's Preventive Services" (publication 10110).

Free and Low-Cost

Medical Care

There are a variety of programs and services that provide free or low-cost medical care to help those that are uninsured, underinsured or low income. Here's where to look.

Health centers: Federally-funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these health centers provide low-cost health and dental care to people based on financial need. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. To find a health center near you visit or call 888-275-4772.

Hill-Burton facilities: There are around 200 Hill-Burton health care facilities around the country that offer free or reduced-cost health care to those who can't afford to pay. Eligibility standards vary by facility, but most require your income to be at, or below, two times the U.S. poverty guideline (see To locate a facility or to see if you qualify, visit or call 800-638-0742 (800-492-0359 for Maryland residents)

Free clinics: These are privately funded, non-profit, community based clinics that typically provide care for common illnesses and injuries to those in need, at little or no cost. There are around 1,000 free clinics nationwide. To locate one in your area, call your local hospital or visit

Indian Health Service (IHS): An agency within the Department of Health and Human Service, IHS provides free medical care to approximately 1.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to more than 557 federally recognized tribes in 35 states. See to learn more.

Remote Area Medical: A non-profit, all-volunteer, charitable organization that, through their Reach Across America project, provides free health, dental and eye care to uninsured or underinsured people in remote areas of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia but may be expanding to other states in the future. To see their schedule, go to or call 865-579-1530.

Free Eye Care

To locate free or discounted eye care or eye glasses programs in your area, your best resource is your local Lions Club. Call 800-747-4448 to get the number to your state Lions Club office, which can refer you to your community representative, or visit There are also a variety of national eye care programs that can help you too including:

EyeCare America: This is a national program coordinated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology that provides a medical eye exam and up to one year of treatment at no out-of-pocket expense - and there are no income qualifications. EyeCare America has over 7,000 participating ophthalmologists around the country that accept Medicare or other insurance as full payment. Patients without insurance receive care at no cost. For more information or to find out if you qualify, call 800-222-3937 or visit

Mission Cataract USA: Provides free cataract surgery to people of all ages who don't have Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance and have no other means to pay. See or call 800-343-7265.

Vision USA: Coordinated by the American Optometric Association (AOA), Vision USA provides free eye health and vision care services to uninsured and low-income workers and their families who have no other means of obtaining care. Visit or call 800-766-4466.

New Eyes for the Needy: A not-for-profit eyeglass program that accepts donations of used prescription eyeglasses and distributes them to people with limited incomes. To learn more visit or call 973-376-4903.

Free and Discounted

Dental Care

If dental care is taking a big bite out of your budget there are options here too. To start, call your state dental association, or local dental society (see for contact information) to find out if there are any state or local programs, or clinics that offer discounted dental care to those with limited means. Other places to check include:

Health centers: In addition to low-cost health care, many HRSA health centers also offer dental care too., 888-275-4772.

Dental schools: If you don't mind letting a dental student work on your teeth, dental schools are another source that may offer discounted dental care. See - click on "Dental Schools" for a U.S. directory and contact information.

National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped: A service that provides free dental care for elderly and disabled people who can't afford to pay. To learn more or to apply for care in your state, visit or call 303-534-5360.


Rx Programs

To find out if you're eligible for Medicaid, Medicare's' extra help program, pharmaceutical patient assistance programs, state pharmacy assistance programs, or national and local charitable programs visit Also see, a top resource for finding affordable medicine.
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