Last week, I talked about Health Insurance and provided some tips that readers could use to ensure you have a policy allowing you to get preventative care and care when sick or injured. In this week’s post, I wanted to share the importance of preparing for the unexpected and the cost of care as you age.
Most people do not realize how costly healthcare is and the impact it can have on you, your family, and your future. In addition, as we age, we may need help in our homes or to go into a nursing home. Most insurances do not pay for care that is considered custodial, leaving the burden on the patient and their family. This is why, we all need to be prepared by having advanced directives so our families know our wishes and that we have the funds to support those wishes.
As a healthy person, I remember looking at my paycheck and asking myself, “Why do I need this health insurance? I am healthy and only see the doctor for my annual pap test/mammogram. I probably only need catastrophic insurance for that “what if” event.
On November 24, 2014, I was told I had a Brain Tumor. It rocked my world mentally, physically, and financially. As I recovered, I recall feeling grateful for the health insurance policy I had from my employer, as it allowed me to get the care that I needed in a center of excellence with minimal out-of-pocket costs.
I was also grateful that I had taken advantage of a Disability Policy that my employer offered. The policy was activated upon my diagnosis as I could not work, and it paid me 80% of my salary for five years. Having that Disability Policy allowed me and my husband to pay our bills as both our jobs were disrupted while I received treatment and then recuperated. The policy also allowed me not to worry about returning to work so that I could heal and return when I was ready. It took the stress of being sick off us, and we could focus on healing. It was lifesaving.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I also got into a good habit of saving with the help of a financial planner. This practice and living within our means allowed us to save, so we had resources to pay for what my Health Insurance did not cover.
What does this have to do with YOU?
I want to impress upon every reader to prepare now. You may never experience what I did, but you will want to buy a house, buy a car, take vacations, send your kids to college, and do other things that allow us to live the lives we want. Everyone needs to implement Preparation, savings, and living within their means to meet their goals and be prepared for an unexpected life event.
In 2023, The Commonwealth Fund did a Health Care Affordability Survey. They found that many Americans, regardless of where their insurance comes from, need more coverage, that’s led to delayed or forgone care, significant medical debt, and worsening health problems.
In another report, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) noted that high deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing can contribute to individuals receiving medical bills that they cannot pay despite being insured. People with medical debt report cutting spending on food, clothing, and other household items, spending down their savings to pay medical bills, borrowing money from friends or family members, or taking on additional debts.
Here are some tips that you can consider
- We all have goals and work to meet those goals, but many times, ‘life gets in the way’ and kicks us off track. Taking time to plan, save, and take advantage of programs can help one be prepared.
- Find a financial planner to help you look at your finances, set goals, and learn how to save. Doing so will put you on a good path.
- Getting into saving by paying yourself first will help you meet your goals.
- Get in the habit of paying off your credit cards. Carrying high amounts of debt puts you further behind.
- Check with your employer to see what plans they offer. They may provide financial counseling and ways to save to help you lower your tax burden and put money away that will grow as you age. Programs like 401Ks, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, and flexible saving accounts are all programs that can help you be prepared and meet your goals.
- Review all medical bills. Many times, they are wrong and need to be corrected. Always ask for a detailed bill to show you what was done and what was charged. If you find an error, duplication, or service you did not have, talk to the provider and bring it to their attention so it can be removed.
- Only pay a medical bill once you know what your insurance company paid. If there is a balance, check with your insurance company. If you have a Managed Care Advantage Plan and stay in the network, there should be no additional charges, but providers sometimes try to balance bill you. Your insurance company can help you fight this, so calling them to alert them is important.
- If you have high medical bills, know there are things you can do. If you feel up to it, talk to your providers and your insurance company so you understand them and the charges are correct. If you are not up to it, ask for help. Fighting medical bills can be exhausting. You can hire a patient advocate who focuses on insurance and billing issues. This service has a cost, but they can often get a good amount of your debt written off or consolidated, relieving stress and the burden you are under.
You might not think these things are important to you now, but they will be vital to you if you have an accident or are diagnosed with an illness that puts you out of work or causes a disability that prevents you from working. Preparing now will help you deal with unexpected life events.
This post will start you thinking and prompt you to act.
Please feel free to share this post with your family, friends, and colleagues so they can prepare!
Paying for It: How Health Care Costs and Medical Debt Are Making Americans Sicker and Poorer: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/surveys/2023/oct/paying-for-it-costs-debt-americans-sicker-poorer-2023-affordability-survey#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20there%20was%20an,largest%20single%20source%20of%20debt
The burden of medical debt in the United States: https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/brief/the-burden-of-medical-debt-in-the-united-states