No one wants to have an Emergency – yet they always happen.
The world we live in is not a safe place by any means. Danger and despair lurk around every corner. Every time we drive our cars we are putting ourselves at risk of injury or worse. Sometimes it’s the job we do to pay the bills. Regardless of what it is, danger is everywhere.
I’m not saying we should baby proof our homes (even without having a baby in the house) and then lock ourselves in. But we can be prepared for the worst financially. I personally have avoided the ER just because I know how much it will sting later when I get the bill. And there are many people out there (maybe you), who avoid it when you know you must go in, but can’t afford the blow of the ER bill when the dust settles. I get it.
Our wallet is set up to pay our bills and get some food in the fridge and gas in our cars. We often don’t think we have room for things like Emergencies. But I am here to tell you to make room – or else!
Or else? (Queue the Dun Dun Dunnnn music)
If we don’t have plans in place to handle these types of things, we will all end up swimming in medical debt. And yes, I realize it’s not like a credit card where the interest rate just makes life more miserable. But, medical debt, if not straightened out right away will impact your credit score, just like not paying on a credit card would. So it is important to be able to do something about when the time comes.
The way I see it, there are 2 options. If you can do them both, then you are in a good place. If you can only do one, you will still survive!
Step 1 – The Financial Planner
Regardless of what your budget is, pay your bills and make sure you can eat and get to work and back. Once that is done, set aside a dollar amount each pay check (not each month, unless you only get paid once a month). Notice I didn’t say a percentage or a specific amount. That is for you to decide. If you tend to visit the hospital or even doctor office more than others, perhaps think of a higher number than you might have if you don’t visit these places that often at all. Either way, any number is better than nothing.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT, touch this money. Only use it to ay medical bills once they show up. Depending on how much you have saved they could eliminate a bill, or maybe all the bills depending on how many different departments got hold of you during your stay. Because you took that step to save something in advance, you can knock out those bill quick and easy.
If you have the budget for it – I also want you to set aside in your bill paying money a dollar amount for medical bills. For an example, let’s say $25 per pay check which will average about $50 per month depending on your pay scale. Every month you can allocate $50 to one or multiple medical bills. Similar to a credit card, the goal is to pay off the smallest first and work your way up to the biggest bill. If you have 3 medical bills, put $10 towards the 2 big ones, and then $30 to the smaller. Once the little one is paid off, you can do $10 to the big one and $40 to the smaller. Once that is paid off, all $50 goes to the only bill you have until it is paid off. Keep in mind, this is just an illustration, the actual dollar amount for you might be different.
Step 2 – I need to stay afloat
For some of us, step 1 might not be that feasible. Sure maybe there can be a few dollars each month in the bill paying money, but saving too? You’re crazy! Yeah, I get it. It won’t be for everyone (at least not right away…stay tuned because you will be able to do it!)
When the medical bills start rolling in, I want you to call the office that the payments go to and communicate with them about any financial hardships and what you can do for a payment plan, and, if you are in such a hard place, maybe even a reduction in your bill. (It can happen – it just depends on circumstances and how much work you want to do with their paperwork to see if you qualify.)
Communicating with the hospital or doctor office is paramount for this to work. If you don’t reach out, failure waits for you soon after! So call them!! 🙂
Being on a plan of some kind will allow you to throw all the medical bills into one pile, and pay on them with a structured plan. This isn’t the fastest and obviously not the nicest way to go about eliminating medical debt, but it will get you there eventually.
The Benefit To You
Here is the part where I said you will be able to save. Once the medical debt is wiped clean, don’t stop paying for it! I know that sounds strange. Take that money, and start saving it in an account or wherever suits you best. You will have adapted your life to this habit enough to be used to paying it, so just keep doing it. It will be a healthy practice, and now you can also save for the Emergency you didn’t plan for.
I know this blog was a long one – but I feel it is important to share it because it can help so many with something so crippling in this country. Medical debt is outrageous in this day and age, and most people suffer every month because of it. It’s not fun, it’s not pretty and we don’t like paying for it – but the reality is there, and hopefully what I have shared with you today will help guide you into a more productive place to deal with it.
These are my thoughts for the day.