The one thing I get asked the most, when dealing with debt, is what do you do when medical bills happen. For all of us, we will receive medical treatment at one time or another in our life. Whether it is for that flu that landed you in the ER or that appendix you needed removed, either way you will find yourself needing medical care and receiving bills later on for that care. I know many people who say “just get insurance and you'll be ok”, but this is not always the saving grace. Even with insurance, medical bills can rack up quicker then we thought was possible. Having a plan for when medical emergencies happen, will help you when you are in a time of need.
For most medical visits, you will pay a co-pay. Your insurance should be able to tell you what that co-pay is, if you have one. Multiply your co-pay by how many people in your family. This will tell you how much it will cost for each member to have a yearly checkup. For my family of four, with a $30 co-pay, we would need to save $120 a year just for that yearly doctor checkup. Divide that by 12 months and we only have to save $10 a month for our yearly doctors visits. Breaking it down and adding a little bit each month, as opposed to paying a lump sum is much more doable. We do this with other medical expenses as well.
If you know how much it cost to got to the dentist, receive shots, etc. than you can plan ahead for it. It is so important to plan ahead for these medical emergencies, because no matter how much we don't want them to happen, they will. Doing a bit more work now, will save you later on.
If you have had a medical emergency and now find yourself in a pile of debt, no matter how much you planned ahead, all is not lost either lovelies. I promise. A few years ago we had a similar experience, where all of our planning ahead only made a small dent in our medical expenses. Hubby got sick and had to spend a few days in the hospital. Many tests were run and when it was time to give him a clean bill of health, we had racked up thousands of dollars in hospital bills. We were forlorn. We had no clue how we would pay that bill. At first we were frustrated. All of our careful budgeting and work had only made a small dent in our bill. We were able to use our emergency fund and the funds we saved into our medical category, but we still owed more. Hubby and I didn't know what we were going to do remove to ourselves from the mountain of debt we were in. It was quite a trying circumstance we found ourselves in. I am so thankful for the doctors that helped him and the treatment he received, but now we were left with a mailbox full of doctor bills, we couldn't pay. If only I could lock up our mailbox and tell them we weren't accepting mail anymore, but that wasn't realistic. We cannot lock our problems away or bury them in a hole. They will still be there. We can't run from them. No matter how scary or nauseating it may be to face them, we must. We must take control of our finances because if we don't, then who will?
I remember falling to the floor in the bathroom and crying. I seem to have a history of crying on bathroom floors. I became a weepy mess on that tiled floor. I had no clue what we were going to do. We had been living frugally. Our budget was tight, but we were making it. I felt like we could finally breath, until a curve ball was sent our way that landed hubby in the hospital. As I cried, I prayed. I prayed really hard. I knew that everything we were going through was beyond me. I was at a lost of what to do. Then a sweet message came to me, “You already know what to do”. I paused and thought, “I do?” The things was, I did know what to do. I had learned years before what to do to get of credit card debt. Those steps were exactly the same steps I could use to get us out of medical debt now. It would be a lot of hard work and require sacrifice on our part, but together as a family we would get through this. After that, I pulled myself up off that bathroom floor and dried my tears. I knew I was not alone. I had a Heavenly Father who loved me and was aware of my circumstance. I could use my own knowledge to take control. When you stand up and take control of a trial, it is such an empowering thing. It makes you feel like you can do anything.
We took out all of our medical bills and categorized them by amount, less to greatest. Just like you do when getting out of credit card debt, you can do the same for medical bills. We started putting any extra money we had towards the smallest bill and we continued this pattern, using the snowball technique, until all of our medical bills were paid off. It took quite sometime, but we were able to do it. If we ever received extra money, we put it towards our debt. What a wonderful moment that was when we sent in our last payment. It was amazing. It had been hard, but as a family we did it.
Another thing did was that we called all of the doctors offices and the hospital to explain our situation. We explained that we wanted to pay our bills, but could only do so much each month. By being honest, we were able to get set up on payments plans. Some doctors offices also reduced our cost for paying some bills off in one lump sum or by calling and talking with them about our circumstances. I think the more honest you are the better. Doctors want their money, they don't want to send you to collections. Explain your situation and what you could realistically pay.
Hospitals are use to working with people. Hospital stays are expensive, so they have divisions that work with people to get their bills paid. When we started out our hospital debt was over $70,000. That was astronomical. We couldn't pay that off and we didn't want to file bankruptcy. We weren't sure what to do. After talking with the hospital, they worked with us. They work with different non-profit charities that help pay hospital bills like that. We were able to get our bill reduced to under $10,000. That was such a blessing. Every spare penny we had, went towards that debt. Any money I made from this blog went towards that debt. It can be done. We said no to going out a lot, but we knew that doing a bit more work now, would help us later on.
If you find yourself in medical debt, know that not all hope is lost. Bankruptcy does not have to be the answer. With a little hard work and dedication, you can make a difference in your life!