Medical Services without Health Insurance

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, 

    We are relocated to Berkeley in 2 weeks with our 24 month old. We have city employee insurance from New York City (EmblemHealth GHI), which unfortunately will not cover any doctors visits in Berkeley through the time my husband is employed to work remotely by the DOE. Can anyone recommend a Berkeley/Bay Area pediatrician to us? I suppose we'll be paying 100% out of pocket, I've never been in this position before so I'm not sure how it works (but  maybe the bright side is we'll get more choice in who we get to have as our Ped?). We had a home birth and still breastfeed at age 2, if that gives any insight into what I mean by "holistic" :) Thanks!

    I highly recommend my son's pediatrician, Dr. Amy Maidenberg of Sage Pediatrics. The practice is located on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, very close to Berkeley. I think she's exactly what you're looking for in terms of a holistic doctor. She is very sharp, good at seeing the big picture, and carefully considers any medication or intervention. In addition to that she is warm and great with kids. In fact, the only thing I don't like about going to her is that she doesn't take insurance -- so since you can't use yours here anyway you might as well check her out! There's also a yearly fee, but if you are here for a shorter time perhaps it could be prorated or something. It would certainly be worth asking.

  • My daughter is starting 5th grade in a Berkeley public school, and she needs to have a report of health examination here. We have just arrived from France and hence have a french health insurance policy (not sure whether they will reimburse for a health examination here, as this is not an emergency situation). The school gave the number of City of Berkeley Public Health services but no-one is on the phone to answer so I could get an appointment with a physician..Do you recommend physicians that would do this examination for my daughter at a reasonable price?

    Thank you

    Try Life Long Médical.  I think they take most insurance , and are in the business of serving people who don’t have insurance.  Plus their doctors are amazing. 

    You can simply ask any physician's office for the private pay fee for the exam. There may also be a fee for completing the school forms. In our clinic (not the specialty you need) we have a private pay fee schedule and offer a cash discount. Lifelong clinics are accustomed to working with folks in different financial situations and, although they keep very busy and it'll be a challenge to get an appointment, they are good folks and your daughter will get good care. Keep this situation in mind, though, if you don't have insurance coverage for routine care while your daughter is in school here, you should have a plan for things like seeing a doctor for flu, vaccines, etc.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

2010 - 2013 Recommendations

Good Doctor for uninsured adult

Oct 2011

I am looking for a doctor who is cost effective for people without insurance. Meaning that he/she is not part of the whole insurance money engine and will be practical about the work done. I believe I have a stomach condition and want to get some expedient testing done while avoiding unnecessary expenses. Thank you for any recommendations.

Our whole family used Dr Lucido's office...he even has a great nurse practitioner for gyn annuals,etc. phebe

Physical exam for someone without medical insurance

Nov 2010

I want to pay for someone without medical insurance to have a complete physical - blood work, hearing, vision, AIDS test, the whole thing - how would I go about it? Do you just pick a doctor and make an appointment? Does anyone have an idea on what this would cost? Are we talking hundreds or even close to thousands? If so, what's the next best thing? They haven't seen a doctor in over a decade, so no medical records anywhere of much use. Would prefer a dr. in SF. Thanks.

You are not alone. Fact is, there are a lot of people who are without insurance. Bottom line is that without insurance, you should always ask about your cost BEFORE you see any provider or receive any procedure. Get the name of whoever you speak to. Most doctors are sympathetic and will cut you a break. Bear in mind that you will be expected to pay on the spot. Cash, check or credit card. Call a doctor's office. Tell them that you have no insurance. Ask them for a cash rate for a physical. Now, beware the labs. Remind the ordering physician that you are paying cash and they may not order every test in order to help save you money. Before you go to a lab, call them and check their rates. In general, free standing labs will be cheaper than labs in the hospital - even if they are both representing the same company like Quest Diagnostics. Good luck! Health Care Professional

I would suggest starting out at a community medical clinic such as the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic ( and the San Francisco Free Clinic ( For women, there is The Women's Community Clinic ( and Lyon Martin (http://www.lyon- The websites have information about fees, but I believe all are sliding scale or free. I have been very impressed by doctors at such clinics, they have been very professional and dedicated, we are very lucky that such clinics are available in the bay area. I don't believe any of these clinics handles urgent or emergency care, so if your friend needs immediate care then SF General Hospital may be his/her only option, but if its not urgent then such clinics can be great. ANON

There are several clinics where you can get these type of services free - if you really don't have any medical ins. St Anthony's Free Medical Clinic comes to mind. I would call and ask them about it and schedule an appointment, if that doesn't work, their front office folks will probably have some other suggestions of where to go that's free or might have a nominal fee. There's also a sliding scale clinic in haight I believe. -look for free/sliding scale health services, they exist

You can usually call a doctors office and ask what they charge for cash payment of whatever service you want and it's generally a lot cheaper than if they have to involve the billing dept and insurance and all that. the labs might be a bit more complicated since those are generally contracted out but they might have some information about that too. good luck

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Local MDs who accept cash payments?

Oct 2009

I've heard of medical practices and individual MDs (maybe NPs, too) who have become so fed up with the private health insurance system that they stopped accepting it and just charge, basically, an affordable fee for service patients pay out of pocket for. I presume you readers know what I am talking about ... so my question is, do any of the readers of this list know of any such practices in the East Bay or SFBA? (I'm in Berkeley.) I do not have health insurance (or course I work in health care - there are many RNs without health insurance) and it is near impossible to get an appointment in the FQHC and community health clinics or even Highland's clinics. I would like to find one of these self-pay practices because I think the fees would be affordable - I need primary care, no chronic diseases. It would be great to pay less than $100 for the visit (labs & tests extra of course). Thanks! Anonymous

I don't know what kind of response you are getting, but I do know that Mercy Doctors Medical Group near Golden Gate Park has a number of excellent physicians who, while taking most insurance also see people without insurance and I'm pretty sure that they price the visits accordingly. They can be reached at (415) 752-0100. Health Care Guy

Dr. Suzanne Bodor is great and in a practice that requires patients to pay up front (and file their own insurance claims, if insured). She's at 3010 Colby St Berkeley, CA 94705 - (510) 845-7751. Your first ''new patient'' comprehensive visit will cost more like $300-400 than $100. Subsequent visits are less expensive. She is thorough, a good listener, and good with follow-up.

Your desire to spend less than $100 is not exactly realistic, considering the expenses medical practices have to cover (rent, utilities, staff salaries, malpractice insurance). Even plumbers charge over $100/hour these days -- and they didn't go through the rigors and expense of medical school. Sorry for this rant, but I strongly feel doctors should be fairly compensated. I am sympathetic to all of this because my sister is an internist back east, so I've witnessed her frustrations with running a practice while trying to deliver the best quality service to her patients. - Believer of fair treatment of good doctors

San Antonio Neighborhood Health Center in Oakland is a part of La Clinica de la Raza and is accepting new patients without insurance. The fee for self-pay uninsured patients is $20-80/visit depending on income (if you're an RN it would probably be $80). You'd probably wait 2 or 3 months to be fully enrolled and then would be able to get appointments pretty easily, same day if need be. San Antonio doc

Getting a prescription filled without med. insurance

Aug 2009

I lost my position six months ago and medical insurance as well. Now I find I'm out of thyroid and that's not good. The HMO will not help as I am not insured with them. People suggested going to a free clinic or the county health agency, but they're completely overloaded because of this terrible economy. I could pay for an office visit, but when I try to talk to doctors they claim they only want someone insured. I know this is a lie because when I bought insurance for my teenagers I couldn't get a doctor for them because every doctor I called in their network ''was not taking new patients'' even though they were listed as otherwise. Does anyone know of a decent authority who could write a simple prescription for thyroid? I rummaged through the cabinets and found an old bottle with 1 refill left from years ago, but I'm worried it too old to refill. Can I refill it anyway? Any advice that isn't more of the ''go to the state'' because it *doesn't work* is greatly appreciated. Stuck in Medical Limbo

There is a doctor in San Francisco Justin Davis Gets great reviews on Yelp and will take cash for appointments. The meds themselves aren't that expensive if you get the generic. Ilene

I have been without precription benefits for over 20 years and have not found any help out there except at Costco Pharmacy where you can get in without being a member for the Pharmacy Department. Inform the staff that you have no coverage and they will give you a free discount card. If your Doctor will give you a prescription for a 3 month supply it is usually less expensive than a one month supply. It is not free but it helps. I have been disabled for years living on a fixed income and this is my reality. I hope that it helps. I also look forward to any other suggestions that you may receive. Wishing you the best. Jane

Here are a few ideas:

1. Call your old doctor that you had before your medicine ran out, if you can't get thru the buzz try to talk to his/her nurse and tell them about your situation, or send a certified letter that needs to be signed for by the doctor. There are probably legal and or ethical considerations that this doctor is required to help you with prescriptions.

2. Call your pharmacy or pharmacies that have refilled your scripts and try to get the old one filled, if you can't tell the main pharmacist your situation - they may have a way to get your script conditionally refilled or provide you some recommendations where to see someone. I have had great help from all Walgreens pharmacies wherever I go. No soap from Longs. People also speak well of Costco Pharmacy.

3. There are internet pharmacies and some have doctors online.

4. You still need to see a doctor, so even though the free clinics suck keep trying to get into one.

5. Emergency room is probably required to see you, go to one with a pharmacy.

6. Partnership for Prescription Assistance:

7. Consider a trip to Canada for ''vacation'' purposes. Medical service is provided for Americans on vacation in Canada. I was easily treated when I was in France.

If other people on this list have ideas please speak up, I am very sure that in these economic times, this kind of health information is something many of us need to know now, have friends/family in this situation, or we may need it.

Please take a serious look at the Health Care legislation in Congress, and call/email your representatives. Nothing is perfect, and for the last 60 years we have been looking at this, if we keep talking about it, another 60 years can fly by. concerned

It's not clear why you don't want to use the medical facilities that are free--a free clinic or county health agency. Go early and prepare to wait. Doesn't seem that difficult. Eventually you will be seen. Have you tried it?

Otherwise, get on the phone and try to find doctors that don't accept insurance. There are a few and they will cost more. You might have to call 50 doctors, but eventually you could find one. You could start by looking for a women's clinc. Anonymous

Don't have insurance, don't want it, might need a doctor

Jan 2007

just was cut off ex-wife's health insurance. don't want to go back to paying $500/month, as i seem fairly healthy. i have a daughter to raise and would rather go old-school and pay a good health provider when i do get sick (ex-wife still pays insurance for daughter) and will take my chances with catastropic events. any recommendations for such a provider who would also tolerate a patient without much use for most traditional medicine? i know that's asking a lot. we live in central contra costa, but i'd go far, even s.f. if necessary. thanks. d

Many years ago I paid my doctor cash. My doctor charged the much higher ''retail'' rate to me, not the cheaper negotiated rate that insurance companies pay. In subsequent records for hospitalizations covered by insurance, I've seen the non- negotiated rates, like perhaps $10,000/day for a room, knocked down to $1500/ day for the insurance companies. In addition, I've learned some doctors hate cash payers, because many cash payers never pay their bill at all--at the time I did think my doctor was curt. So if you can get high-deductible catastrophic coverage or anything, I'd go for it. At least you will get the negotiated rates (I think but am not sure). Good luck. anonymous

I would just like to try and get you to reconsider going without health insurance. As a single payer w/ no prior health complications ( you said you were fairly healthy) you should be able to find something for around or less than $200 per month. I am a very healthy mid 30's woman who had absolutely no health problems AT ALL and had a hospital stay a few years ago w/ a complication that was completely out of the blue. To make a long story short, total hospital costs were $200,000 PLUS! Thankfully we had health insurance and our out of pocket costs were $3000. Unless you feel you could absorb such an enormous fee (think small fender bender w/ x- rays or maybe a kidney stone etc.) it is not worth it to go without. Even now as someone w/ a pre-existing condition (for 18 months or so until an all clear is given) I can get insurance separte from my family for $300 per month. Yes insurance seems unnecessary but it is a huge gamble to take with your overall financial health. Glad we had it

Most physician offices will take self pay patients. You should not have a problem making an appointment with any of them. If you need a recommendation, I suggest the practice in Orinda of Dr. Mary Sears. I believe it is now called John Muir Medical Group and while Dr. Sears may not be taking new patients, several of the associates are and as a physician in the community, I have been very happy with the care my patients receive at that office. The number is: (925) 254-9090

I would also like to suggest, however, that health insurance plans can be inexpensive when you are young and healthy and are willing to pay a high deductible. Blue shield offers these type of plans, the premium is low, the deductible is high, but you are covered for catastrophic occurances like surgery or hospitalization. Think of it in the same way we think of homeowners insurance which is significantly less expensive than health insurance; you use your homeowners insurance for a fire or robbery, not to change your light bulbs. One of the reasons health insurance is so expensive is that we expect to pay nothing or little out of pocket to see the doctor. You pay for that convenience in huge premiums.

If you need and insurance broker, I can happily recommend Fleming Associates. They are a father son team and will come to meet with you at your convenience. (925) 891-3000 Good luck and good health. Elizabeth L

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

I need a tetanus shot but I don't have insurance

Dec 2006

Does anyone know where to get a tetnus shot, inexpensive, for someone without insurance? We just need the shot and do not want to pay for a physical. Thanks!

You might try a travel clinic. They provide fee-for-service vaccinations for all kinds of diseases. I went to the one at UCSF some years back, but they are all over the Bay Area. For example, a quick Google search turned up one in Berkeley (http:// which lists tetanus shots at $35 a pop... anon

I went to Bayside Family Practice and Travel Medicine in Berkeley 843-4544. They have numerous offices and I got an appointment right away I did not have to have a physical and was able to just get the shot. It was a couple years ago, but I think it was between $45-$65. (I think I had to special order to get just the Tetanus w/out the Diphtheria-Pertussis mixed in). I have used them for hep A vaccines as well. You could also try Planned Parenthood. I know they do Hep A and might do Tetanus too.

I have rarely had health insurance and have found there are some advantages. You can contact specialists of your choice directly and don't need a referral. Plus when you mention you will be paying cash they always have room to see you right away and often the cost is substantially lower than if they had to bill your insurance. Also, some doctors will charge you less just because you ask them to (I mention that I am low income). I found out that an emergency room in Missouri I went to had a sliding scale! I've even bartered for services. You never know unless you ask! Hope this unsolicited advice is useful too. Cheers, Lindsey

Breast lump and no insurance

June 2006

A friend of mine, who is self-employed, got a mammogram before she signed up to get insurance. The mammogram results showed a spot even though she cannot feel a lump. We are now worried that she won't be able to get insurance because companies may claim a pre-existing condition. We are afraid she will not be able to pay for treatment. In fact, it took a month for her to even get an appointment (later this month) to see if she has a lump and if so, whether or not it is malignant. Any advice about getting insurance or medical treatment? worried

People with pre-existing can get health insurance. It's called HIPAA. Contact an insurance broker to learn more. I've been pleased with my broker, Dave Rozzi. His administrative assistant is incredibly helpful and competent: Sonyja Blanson [sblanson [at]]. It might be better to get this before you have a biopsy, if that is the next course. A biopsy could run you a few thousand dollars. Moving to Canada or an EU country (I'm only half kidding)is another option. Good luck!

First, not jump to any conclusions. Second... stop eating chocolate and drinking coffee (tea,coke also). Coffe (tea,coke) and chocolate can cause lumps in some women...two of my family members as a matter of fact. Third...One of the constantly recomended cancer treatments that many local AIDs groups talk about is shark cartilage...since AIDS patients are under a constant assault and deal with some pretty heavy duty cancers...the fact that many religously take shark cartilage should be noted. Fourth...there is a free womens health care clinic in berkeley I believe...near the corner of sixth and University Julie

Hi, I am a practioner at Highland Hospital in Oakland that provides healthcare to those with no insurance. There is a great Breast Clinic there which I am happy to get an appt for your friend. The county system is difficult to negotiate but ultimately gives great care. Let me know if you need assistance. Anne

2003 & Earlier

We don't have insurance and I need a pediatrician

August 2001

I need to find a good pediatrician or family doctor for my children. We just moved to California, and we don't have insurance. We are trying to get on Medi-Cal but it is taking a while. I think my daughter may have an ear infection. I made an appointment to see a nurse practitioner from Dr. Winokur's office, but it will cost $125 - $165, which is WAY too much for us.Is this a normal price to pay for someone without insurance? Does anyone know of a good doctor (in the Albany/Berkeley area) who is not so expensive? My daughter has had a history of tubes and ear infections and I can't just let this pass in hopes that it will go away, but on the other hand we are really strapped financially.Help! Josh

Recommendations received:

  • Gary Bean Berkeley
  • La Clinica Pediatrics Oakland
  • Health Families Insurance
  • West Berkeley Family Practice Berkeley
    Other recommendations:

    There are many options for un- & underinsured families in California. Know that you can always go to Alameda County or Berkeley health department clinics and the financial counselors there will work with you on sliding scale/payment plan basis. They are providers of last resort (w/ some very good docs & NPs) and are obligated to serve everyone regardless of ability to pay. You can go to urgent care tomorrow if need be if she has an ear infection. Berkeley Health Dept. is 644-6489. A.C. Public Health is 628-7600. Oakland Healthy Start 628-7600. Cyfloyd

    Two suggestions. First, you should make sure you've applied for Healthy Families as well as Medi-Cal. For program information and an application, see

    Second, you may want to contact Bay Area Legal Aid (BALA) and ask them for help expediting your Medi-Cal application, based on your child's medical history. In Alameda County, the phone number for BALA is (510) 663-4744. In Contra Costa, it's (510) 233-9954. When you first call, be sure to tell the receptionist that you're calling about your child's urgent health problem and a pending Medi-Cal application. Good luck! Ellern

    You probably have already dealt with your daughter's possible ear infection by now, so I don't know if this will help too much, but you might want to find out if your MediCal application is retroactive to the date you applied. If you are fairly certain your children will qualify for acceptance into the program and coverage is retroactive to the application date, that might give you some piece of mind financially.

    Another option is to try to get into one of the local public health clinics around. I'm sure they would charge you much less than a private practice office. I don't know the names of any off hand but you might call Children's Hospital in Oakland. I believe they have an information and referral line.

    By the way, if you do not qualify for MediCal you should apply for the Healthy Families program, which covers low-income families who make too much to qualify for MediCal. Here is the website with information on that program: Good luck. Hannah