How To Apply For Harris Health (Gold Card)

harris health (gold card)

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? 

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 medical system called the Harris Health System. 

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
  • Counseling
  • Psychiatry
  • Pharmacy
  • Trauma care in their hospitals

Who Should Apply For Gold Card? 

Anyone who is uninsured, underinsured, homeless, recently unemployed is encouraged to apply for 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. 

  1. Check to see if you qualify for a Gold Card discount plan
  2.  Download the Gold Card application
  3. Gather the supporting documents needed
  4. Find an eligibility center
  5. Wait for your Gold Card to be processed
  6.  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: 

  1. Visit a Harris Health Eligibility Center to pick up an application
  2. 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.  

Service Cost
Visit to primary care doctor $3
Lab or x-ray service $3
Prescription costs (will vary vary with Medicare coverage)
  • 1 to 30 days = $8
  • 31 to 60 days = $16
  • 61 to 90 days = $24
  • $10 for medicines on the 90-day list
Dental visit $8
Dentures Price based on payment scale
Emergency room visit  $25
Day surgery  $25
Inpatient stay  $50

If you make $1596 or more per month these are the prices you will likely pay for Harris Health services.

Service Cost 
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
Day surgery  $2,500
Inpatient stay  2,500



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:

  1. If you have access to a printer use this link DOWNLOAD YOUR GOLD CARD APPLICATION
  2. 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:

  • Identification
  • 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

Immigration status

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.

  1. Harris Health System
  2. 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
  • Cardiology
  • 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. 


In order to avoid expensive hospitalizations and chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, you want to take preventative steps like obtaining a doctor. 

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



18 thoughts on “How To Apply For Harris Health (Gold Card)

  1. Travis Harmason Reply

    How can I get a gold card application mail to my apartment 5135 North Freeway Apartment 43 Houston Texas 77022

  2. Iana B. Reply

    Hello, my gf applied for a gold card in Harris County a day ago. I read on this page that it takes 15-30 days to be processed, but she needs the card much sooner that this. She is in need of medical care and this is her only option at this time. Is there any way this can be expedited?

    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      Hi Iana. If your girlfriend was able to provide all the documents they requested (things like proof of address, income, etc) the process should go much smoother. Things get drawn out when those supporting documents are not provided. I don’t know if they are doing expedited applications due to COVID but you can call them at 713.566.6509 to see about that option.

      Not sure what type of treatment she is seeking but an alternative is making an appointment at a Federally Qualified Health Center…commonly know as the “free clinics”. Although these places arent necessarily free, they do treat people who are uninsured. If its medications that she needs soon these clinics would be a good option. If its some type of procedure the Gold Card will be your best bet.

      If you want to see which “free clinics” are near you use the link below and type your zip code into the search. You’ll see listings of clinics within about 5-10 miles of your zip code. Legacy Clinic, Hope Clinic, and El Centro de Corazon are some of the very best options for people without insurance in Houston.

      Let me know if you need more clarification on anything, happy to help.


  3. Radi Reply

    Hello Nick, question for you. I am helping my family friend to renew his gold card. This poor friend of mine lost his visibility 2 years ago, and kind of depend of others to navigate his way. With COVID19 raging all over like crazy, and I am scared to go out (much less take him out) to take care of his gold card paperwork – which we normally process it over at LBJ – is there anyway we could process the renewal online rather than meeting in-person at LBJ?
    Thank you very much for the advice.


    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      Hi Radi, I COMPLETELY understand the preference to avoid the hospitals right now. I would say first call Harris Health at 713.566.6509 to see if they’ve adjusted their enrollment process due to COVID. I know services like food stamps and Medicaid have made it easier to renew services so I would imagine Harris Health did the same for the Gold Card.

      Another option is to call City of Houston Health Department. While they do not manage the Gold Card, they can certify you for the Gold Card. Their appointment line is 832.393.5427. Contact them to see if you can submit the paperwork through email to renew so you don’t have to get out in this madness.

      You’re a good friend for doing this, God bless your fam!


  4. Mary Johnson Reply

    My daughter is 20yrs old. She is having severe back pain. Its been bad for 3yrs. We don’t have insurance. I am on disability. She struggles to work part time. She has 2 recent check stubs. I have my award letter. What else do I need? I NEED to get my daughter in to a dr. She may even require surgery, I don’t know.

    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      Im sorry to hear that Mary, hopefully, they can get her processed quickly so that she can get treatment for her back pains.

      Here is a link to all the supporting documents needed, but in short she’ll need:

      1. ID
      2. Proof of address, some mail in the past 60 days
      3. Proof of income for past 30 days like the pay check stubs and award letter.
      4. Birth certificates of any children she has
      5. Immigration status if applicable
      6. Any other health coverage if applicable
      7. A Medicare Asset Form…if she is someone how eligible for Medicare

      Since Texas is looking to shut down again call Harris Health at 713.566.6509 to see if they’ve changed the intake process. Their walk-in Eligibility Centers may be temporarily closed in favor of people mailing in these forms.

      God bless your family and stay safe out there.

  5. Anthony Johnson Reply

    Hello Nick,

    Is it a requirement to be employed to receive the Gold Card? I was recently laid off about a month and a half ago and not certain if I can submit pay stubs for the months I was employed this year.

    Also, would a letter of support from a friend help with the application? I do not see any mention of a letter of support in the application.

    thank you, Anthony

    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      Hi Anthony sorry for the delay. You are correct the statement of support is used to satisfy income requirements when someone is not working although if you are living off savings not sure if you would still need to complete it or not. Contact Harris Health eligibility at 713.566.6509 to run your scenario by them to see what documents you need to submit. You don’t want to get approved for a plan that charges you more for prescription and visits if can avoid it! Hope that helps my man.

  6. Lisa Reply

    I was wondering what’s the difference between applying for the gold card with Harris health and city of Houston department I’m having varicose vein problems and need it checked out ASAP what’s the way to get approved ? …

    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      Good question Lisa! There is no difference in coverage if you go through City of Houston or Harris Health.

      That being said COVID has disrupted lots of things so it’s best to go straight through Harris Health at this time for enrollment. To start you’ll have to complete an application that you can download/print here.

      or if you can’t print find a Harris Health Eligibility Center to pick up an application.

      You can call Harris Health at 713.566.6509 and they’ll tell you more about how enrollment goes during COVID.

      Another option is to use this map of low cost medical clinics in Houston to find a doctor and set up a potentially faster appointment. I give you that 2nd option because sometimes the Harris Health eligibility process can be slow especially if you do not supply them with all the documents they request. Those low cost clinics can sometimes see you sooner without all the eligibility paperwork.

      Lastly if you have questions about medical conditions speak with someone from the Nurse Health Line. This line is staffed 24/7 with registered nurses who can give you advice on medical problems and even tell you when they believe a situation is worthy of going to the ER. Call them at (713) 338-7979. That being said if a condition is bad enough as always skip all this and just call 911.

      Hope that helps you Lisa,stay safe out there!

  7. Sharkita Cain Reply

    Hello I’m about to apply for gold card but the only thing is that I don’t have any income so how do I show them proof for that

  8. Steve Reply

    Hi Nick

    I have a friend that will be living with me and will need to renew her gold card with my address. She also does not have a job currently and I would need to submit a statement of support form. Does this affect my situation at all tax wise? Or do you have more information on how I will be affected if I am supporting her?

    Thanks You

    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      Hows it going Steve? The short answer is I’m not sure.

      When I worked with a local mental health agency they had a similar supporter statement and the person supporting the client was not impacted. Again that was a different agency so I’m not certain if Harris Health has a similar policy. Definitely call Harris Health before completing the application to be on the safe side 713.566.6509 or 713.526.4243.

  9. Anthony Johnson Reply

    Hello Nick,

    Thank you for the response above. One more question. Is the Gold Card retroactive to a date of your choosing? For example, It is Aug 27 and I would like for the card to be active as of June 1. Is this possible? I have been approved for the Gold Card but it was retroactive to only Aug 1. I did speak to the lady who I made the app with and they said it could be retroactive back to 1 year.

    • Nick Bryant Post authorReply

      That is one area of Gold Card I’m not familiar with. If you contact the appointment line at 713.526.4243 they should be able to clear up the questions about the retroactive date.

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