How To Apply For Harris Health (Gold Card)
Do you know how to apply for Harris Health (Gold Card)?
If not this article will provide you with easy to follow instructions on applying for the coverage.
Harris Health Financial Assistance Plan is Harris County’s safety net program which provides health coverage for those who are uninsured or simply not able to find affordable coverage.
Harris Health is not free although there is financial assistance for those who qualify.
- What Is the Gold Card/Harris Health System?
- What Services Does Gold Card/Harris Health System Offer?
- Who Should Apply For Gold Card?
- How To Apply For Harris Health (Gold Card)
- Applying For Gold Card During COVID-19
- Step 1: Which Harris Health (Gold Card) discount plan do you qualify for?
- Step 2: Download a Harris County Gold Card application
- Step 3: Supporting Documents Needed For Harris Health (Gold Card Requirements)
- Step 4: Finding a place to apply for Harris Health (Gold Card)
- Harris Health System Enrollment Process
- Harris Health System Eligibility Centers
- City of Houston Health Department
- City of Houston Multi-Service Centers
- Acres Homes Multi-Service Center
- Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center
- Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center
- Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center
- Kashmere Multi-Service Center
- Magnolia Multi-Service Center
- Northeast Multi-Service Center
- Southwest Multi-Service Center
- Sunnyside Multi-Service Center
- Third Ward Multi-Service Center
- West End Multi-Service Center
- Step 5: Using your Harris Health (Gold Card)
- Harris Health Services Offered to Patients
- Gold Card Renewal
What Is the Gold Card/Harris Health System?
The Gold Card is a safety net medical program that treats low-income individuals in Harris County.
While locals still refer to this program as the “Gold Card” the actual name is the Harris Health Financial Assistance Plan. This service is provided to the community by a local indigent healthcare network called the Harris Health System. This network was formerly known as the Harris County Hospital District.
What Services Does Gold Card/Harris Health System Offer?
The Gold Card provides the following services to its patients:
- Primary care via community-based clinics
- Same day clinics
- Specialty Clinics for cancer care, cardiology, dialysis, stroke, geriatric, HIV/AIDS and more
- Dental services
- Trauma care in facilities like Ben Taub and LBJ Hospitals
Who Should Apply For Gold Card?
Harris County residents who are uninsured, homeless, or recently unemployed are encouraged to apply for the Gold Card.
Many people believe that if you are uninsured there are no medical care options for you, however, this is false. Harris Health System was created to help those individuals who fall between the cracks.
Another set of individuals who should consider applying for Harris Health is anyone uninsured who is needing hospitalization or surgery. If you need major medical care the Harris Health System can potentially provide you with this help.
How To Apply For Harris Health (Gold Card)
Here is a quick summary of how to apply for the Harris Health Gold card.
- Check to see if you qualify for a Gold Card discount plan
- Download the Gold Card application
- Gather the supporting documents needed
- Find a Harris Health eligibility center
- Wait for your Gold Card to be processed
- Begin scheduling medical appointments with your Gold Card
In the following sections, we will go into more detail about each step.
Applying For Gold Card During COVID-19
There are two ways to apply for the Gold Card during the Coronavirus pandemic and those are:
- Visit a Harris Health Eligibility Center to pick up an application
- You can have an application mailed to you by contacting the Eligibility Information Line at 713.566.6509
The second option may be more preferable if you want to protect yourself from COVID-19 during this time.
Step 1: Which Harris Health (Gold Card) discount plan do you qualify for?
Before traveling to a Harris Health eligibility center it’s a good idea to find out which Harris Health Discount plan you qualify for.
Harris Health won’t deny anyone services, but the discount plan you receive will depend on a number of factors like:
- Whether you live in Harris County
- If you currently have insurance
- The number of dependents you have
- Your household income
To get a better idea of your potential the out of pocket costs for Gold Card use this Harris Health Eligibility calculator to see which. plan you qualify for.
Note: You can receive Harris Health services if you live outside of Harris County although you will be billed at 100%.
Harris Health offers 5 different discount plans ranging from Plan Zero to Plan Four.
Gold Card Enrollment Process For Homeless Individuals
Typically anyone who is homeless will qualify for Plan Zero. Individuals who qualify for this plan will pay little to nothing for co-payments and prescriptions.
To sign up for Harris Health Plan Zero you must obtain a homeless letter. These letters can be obtained at Houston shelters like The Beacon, Lord of the Streets, and Search Homeless Services. Only shelters can provide Homeless Letters and enroll clients in the Harris Health Plan Zero.
Note: Harris Health defines “homeless” as anyone who does not have a physical address.
Gold Card Enrollment Process For Those Who Are Not Homeless
Individuals who have a physical address must apply for Harris Health at one of the eligibility centers.
You can follow this link to a list of Harris Health Eligibility Centers.
People on the Harris Health discount plans 1 – 4 are required to pay some fees for services. Clinic co-payments can range from $3 for Plan 1 all the way to a maximum of $95 for Plan 4. Keep in mind these prices are estimates and subject to change.
In the following section, we’ll discuss the actual Gold Card application and provide you with a link to download the application.
Editor’s note: For more options regarding primary care for the homeless see our guide titled 7 options for Homeless Medical Care in Houston.
Cost of Harris Health Services
The following prices are estimates to give you a better understanding of what Harris Health services could cost. This information was obtained via the eligibility calculator and based on the following criteria:
- Someone living in Harris County
- They have no Medicare
- 1 person in the household
Feel free to use the Harris Health eligibility calculator to input your own unique circumstances.
If you make between $0 to $1595 per month below are the potential costs that you would pay at at Harris Health clinic.
|Visit to primary care doctor||$3|
|Lab or x-ray service||$3|
|Prescription costs (will vary vary with Medicare coverage)||
|Dentures||Price based on payment scale|
|Emergency room visit||$25|
If you make $1596 or more per month these are the prices you will likely pay for Harris Health services.
|Visit to primary care doctor||$95|
|Lab or x-ray service||$95|
|Prescription costs (will vary with Medicare coverage)||Must pay full amount before picking up medications. Medicare or private health insurance will impact the cost of prescriptions.|
|Dentures||Operates on payment scale|
|Emergency room visit||$150|
Step 2: Download a Harris County Gold Card application
If you’re crunched your numbers in the Harris Health Eligibility Calculator and were satisfied the next step is obtaining a Gold Card application.
There are two ways to obtain a Gold Card application:
- If you have access to a printer use this link DOWNLOAD YOUR GOLD CARD APPLICATION
- If you do not have access to a printer you can pick up a copy at any Harris Health or City of Houston Eligibility Center.
You are encouraged to print two copies of the Harris Health Gold Card application form. Fill out your first copy to the best of your abilities.
Demographic information like your name and address should be self-explanatory. For information regarding your income, it’s ok to leave it blank for the moment because this is something an eligibility specialist can help you with.
Your second copy is simply a backup plan in the event you made a mistake filling out the first form.
While an eligibility specialist can help you complete the entire Gold Card application, the more you can complete on your own faster the process.
Again if you need an application you can download one HERE.
Next, we’ll discuss the additional documents that you will need to supply to apply for Harris Health/Gold Card.
Step 3: Supporting Documents Needed For Harris Health (Gold Card Requirements)
Once you’ve completed your Gold Card application it’s time to start digging through those closets and shoe boxes for your supporting documents.
In addition to completing the Harris Health application you’ll also need to show the following supporting documents:
- Birth Certificates for dependents
- Proof of residency (bills or other documents)
- Income or paycheck stubs
- If applicable: INS (immigration) documents, Medicaid Letter, Medicare ID, Social Security Award Letter, TANF certification, credit card statements, bank statements
The next six sections will give you specific examples of documents Harris Health System is looking for.
Identification is needed for both you and your spouse if you’re married. This would include marriage license or Registration of Informal Marriage if you are common law married. One proof of identity is needed if you possess the following:
- Driver license
- Current state ID
- Employment badge
- US immigration documents
- Foreign consulate ID card
- Agency letter
If you do not have a picture form of ID you must supply two of the following:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage license
- Hospital or birth records
- Adoption paperwork
- Harris County voter card
- Check stub
- Social security card
- Medicaid card
- Medicare care
Proof of address
You must provide a document with your address, your name or spouse’s name. You only need one of the following if the mail is dated within the last 60 days:
- Utility bill
- Mortgage coupon
- Business mail
- School records for children under age 18
- Certification document or benefits check from Social Security Administration or Texas Workforce Commission
- Certification paper from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or SNAP From TF 0001.
- Agency Letter
- Statement from a licensed child care provider
- Harris Health System-Residence Verification Form filled out by a non-related person, not living in your house. Click HERE to download the Harris Health System Residence Verification Form.
- Check stub
- Credit card statement
- Medicaid or Medicare letter
If in the last year any of these documents are acceptable:
- Lease agreement
- Department of motor vehicle record
- Automobile registration
- Property tax document
- Automobile insurance document
- Printout from IRS of most current year’s tax filing
Proof of income
Income for the past 30 days for you, your spouse, and children living with you who are over the age of 18 is needed. Here are the acceptable documents:
- Cash income
- Rental property
- Workmen’s compensation
- Current check stubs
- Social security award letter
- Current IRS 1040/1040A tax return (all pages) if self-employed
- Veteran Affairs letter or check
- Unemployment benefit record
- Agency letter
- Income on SNAP from TF 0001
- Harris Health System – Statement of Self-Employment Income Form if no tax return is filed. Click HERE for Harris Health System Self-Employment Income Form.
- Harris Health System – Statement of Wage Verification Form (for cash and personal check wages only). Click HERE for Harris Health Wage Verification Form.
- Harris Health System – Statement of Support Form if no income. Click HERE for Harris Health System Statement of Support Form.
Proof of relation to children
The following document (only one) is needed for any children living with you who depend on you for support:
- Birth certificate
- Proof of full-time school enrollment for students aged 18-26
- US immigration applications with dependent’s names
- Death certificate for previous household members
- School documents or insurance documents showing the names of both parent and child
- Birth fact record or hospital armband for infants less than 90 days old
- US Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Refugee Resettlement – Verification or Release Form ((ORR UAC/R-1) for an unaccompanied alien child.
- Baptismal record
- Social Security award letter with dependent’s names
- Baby’s Popras forms
You must show current or expired documents from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for you, your spouse or children who depend on you for support.
Health Care Coverage (if applicable)
You must show proof of Medicaid, CHIP, CHIP Perinatal, Medicare, or private health insurance for you, your spouse or children who depend on you for support.
If you have Medicare
Complete the Medicare Asset From. This form shows proof of your current resources (bank statements, credit cards, etc). Download your Medicare Asset Form HERE.
If you’ve obtained each of the necessary documents above well done!
Now it’s time to find a location near you to apply for Harris Health (Gold Card).
Step 4: Finding a place to apply for Harris Health (Gold Card)
In this 4th step, we will talk about the different locations to apply for the Gold Card.
Harris Health System is the entity that offers Harris Health (Gold Card), although you can apply for coverage through two different agencies.
- Harris Health System
- City of Houston Health Department
Regardless of the agency that helps you to apply, the coverage is the same. The only difference between the two is the enrollment process.
We’ll start by telling you about the Harris Health enrollment process.
Harris Health System Enrollment Process
If you choose to apply for coverage through the Harris Health Eligibility Center you have 2 options.
1.) You can mail your application and the supporting documents to:
Harris Health Financial Assistance Program
P.O. Box 300488
Houston, TX 77230
2.) The second option is to take your completed application and supporting documents to one of the Harris Health Eligibility Centers below.
Harris Health does not provide eligibility appointments. If you want help completing an application you will have to visit an eligibility center as a walk-in.
While Harris Health does not offer eligibility appointments, they do have an Eligibility Line (713.566.6509) that you can call to have any questions answered.
Harris Health System Eligibility Centers
Here is the list of eligibility centers to help you apply for the Gold Card.
Acres Home Eligibility Center
818 Ringold Street | Houston, TX 77088 – 713.566.6509 | Hours: 7 am – 4 pm M-F, Fourth Thursday of every month, open 7 am – 11 am
Lois J. Moore Eligibility Center
8901-B Boone Road | Houston, TX 77099 – 713.566.6509 | Hours: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm M-F, Fourth Wednesday of every month, open 7:30 am – 2:30 pm
East Mount Houston Eligibility Center
11737 B Eastex Freeway |Houston, TX 77039 – 713.566.6509 |Hours: 8am – 4:30pm M-F, Fourth Friday of every month, open 8am – 3:30pm
Southeast/MLK Eligibility Center
3550 – A Swingle Road | Houston, TX 77047 – 713.566.6509 | Hours: 8 am -4:30 pm M-F, Fourth Thursday of every month, open
Strawberry Eligibility Center
925 Shaw Avenue | Pasadena, TX 77506 – 713.566.6509 | Hours: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm M-F, Third Thursday of every month, open 7:30 am – 3 pm
Again once you have completed your Harris Health (Gold Card) application and obtained all the supporting documents drop it off at the closest Harris Health Eligibility Center or mail it to P.O. Box 300488 Houston, TX 77230.
City of Houston Health Department
The City of Houston is also partnered with Harris Health, therefore, you can apply for the Gold Card at any their Multi-Service Center.
Note: This might be a good option to consider if you live close to a City of Houston multi-service center.
Unlike Harris Health, the City of Houston does not accept walk-in appointments at its multi-service centers.
To receive help applying for Harris Health (Gold Card) you must call the City of Houston appointment line at 832.393.5427.
Note: You can also apply for WIC, SNAP and Texas Women’s Health Plan by calling the City of Houston Health Department appointment line.
When you call the appointment line they will schedule a date, time and location (Multi-Service Center) for your Harris Health (Gold Card) appointment to occur. They will also go over the listing of supporting documents needed for your screening.
City of Houston Multi-Service Centers
You are free to schedule your Gold Card appointment at any multi-service centers below:
Acres Homes Multi-Service Center
6719 West Montgomery | Houston, TX 77091 | 832.393.4145
Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center
6402 Market Street | Houston, TX 77020 | 832.395.0895
Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center
4014 Market Street | Houston, TX 77020 | 832.393.4200
Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center
3810 West Fuqua | Houston, TX 77045 | 832.393.4200
Kashmere Multi-Service Center
4802 Lockwood | Houston, TX 77026 | 832.393.5503
Magnolia Multi-Service Center
7037 Capitol Street | Houston, TX 77011 | 832.395.3380
Northeast Multi-Service Center
9720 Spaulding | Houston, TX 77016 | 832.395.0470
Southwest Multi-Service Center
6400 High Star | Houston, TX 77074 | 832.395.9900
Sunnyside Multi-Service Center
9314 Cullen Street | Houston, TX 77051 | 832.395.0069
Third Ward Multi-Service Center
3611 Ennis Street | Houston, TX 77004 | 832.393.4051
West End Multi-Service Center
170 Heights Blvd | Houston, TX 77007 | 832.393.5950
Step 5: Using your Harris Health (Gold Card)
Once your Harris Health (Gold Card) is approved you can begin using it right away to make appointments.
To make an appointment at a Gold Card clinic you’ll need to call the Harris Health appointment line at 713.526.4243.
A scheduler will ask for your name, date of birth, and if your mailing address has changed. Once your information is confirmed simply ask them for a “new patient appointment”. The scheduler will provide you with available appointment dates and locations to choose from. Once you make your selection the scheduler will book your appointment.
Note: You must arrive at any Harris Health appointment 30 minutes early. Failing to do so could result in your appointment being cancelled.
For a listing of Harris Health Clinic, locations see the map below.
Harris Health Services Offered to Patients
Once you qualify for Gold Card you immediately gain access to primary care via the Harris Health Systems. In addition to the routine doctors visits you will also receive Harris Health dental and mental health services. This includes both counseling and psychiatric services.
Other medical services available to you will be:
- Cancer care
- HIV/AIDS services
- Geriatric care
- Harris Health pharmacy services
- Medical care for women and infants
- A free nurse health line
- Dialysis for those without insurance (Houston’s Riverside Clinic)
Editor’s note: Some of these services may require a referral from your primary Harris Health doctor.
Gold Card Renewal
You will have to complete a Harris Health Gold Card renewal at least every 12 months. If you become eligible for another insurance coverage you may be required to reapply for the program even sooner.
To reapply, you will need to complete a Gold Card renewal application. This one is just like the application that you completed when you applied for Harris Health the very first time. Again you will have to apply for the Gold Card every 12 months, therefore if you applied in the month of August, the next year begin reapplying in July to be on the safe side.
The Harris Health System literally has every medical service you would need. Primary care doctors, specialists, dentists, psychiatrists, and more are available to you when you apply for the Houston Gold Card.
The Gold Card was created to assist people in Harris County who fall between the cracks. Individuals who are uninsured, underinsured, homeless, have no money, were recently laid off are all encouraged to apply.
If you have questions about the Gold Card you can call the Harris Health System phone number at 713.566.6509 or 713.526.4243.
Nick Bryant is a Counselor with 11 years of experience working in community health. He enjoys concerts, walks with the doggo and wife, mocking Dallas Cowboy fans, and sharing community resources. Jump on the Houston Case Managers email list to receive weekly community resource guides delivered directly to your inbox.