Want to know what the #1 expense is in my personal budget?
And thank G-d, it’s not because anyone in our family is sick or has a chronic condition. It’s because my husband and I are both self-employed and our healthcare costs are therefore insanely expensive.
After doing extensive research, we chose a high deductible plan, which keeps our monthly premiums under $1000 – but also means that we pay for all of our basic medial care up to that high deductible.
Again, fortunately we are quite healthy; but the bills add up quickly when you don’t have a co-pay — even for a routine procedure.
Last month, I had to have a biopsy. First and foremost, thank G-d, everything came back fine!
But the bills for that procedure have run over $12,000.
Our insurance negotiated rate dropped the bill down to “only” a few thousand – but since we have the high deductible plan, that’s coming out of our pocket.
We contribute the max to our Health Savings Account every year (which for a family is $6,450 – but confirm that with your insurance broker or plan administrator), so at least these bills are coming out of before-tax money.
Tip #1: Save Up for an Emergency Fund
When the bills started rolling in this month, I immediately imagined what would have happened if I didn’t have that money on hand in our HSA. What if we were living paycheck to paycheck? This procedure could wipe us out.
It’s easy to understand how people get in trouble with their credit cards when even routine medical care is so costly. Which is why it’s so important to plan for emergencies.
And let’s face it – what I went thru doesn’t even qualify as emergency. That was just the unexpected nature of life. The unexpected happens all the time. Especially when it comes to our health. And sadly, sometimes actual emergencies happen, as we know all too well.
The stress that my husband and I felt when I had to undergo that biopsy was nothing short of acute. But thank G-d “How will I pay for this procedure?” wasn’t adding to it.
If you don’t yet have an emergency fund – please, put it at the top of your Priority List. Even if you can only afford to save $20 or $50 a month toward it right now. Saving for that Emergency Fund is one of the hardest, most self-disciplined things I’ve ever done. But at times like these, I am so glad for the effort!
Tip #2: Ask for a Discount
Our bills for this procedure came in a number of different forms — there were doctor bills and pathology bills and radiology bills and hospital bills. The biggest chunk was for the hospital.
Even though we have money in our HSA, I still decided to go out on a limb and ask them for a discount.
Specifically, I called the number listed on the bill and said, “Is there any flexibility with this payoff amount?”
Immediately, the woman started to tell me about a payment option.
I waited while she told me about that 20-month plan and then asked again, “Actually, I’m wondering if I can get a reduced rate if I pay the balance in full today.”
Right away, without any haggling, she told me that if I pay the balance in full, they will reduce it by 30%.
I was so grateful, once again, that we have our HSA (backed up by our Emergency Fund) — since without it, I wouldn’t necessarily have been in the position to offer payment in full.
Is spending all that money for one (of many) medical bills my idea of a good time? Absolutely not. But it is less painful than the alternative.
When it comes to our health, there are all sorts of stresses and anxieties that come along for the ride – one of which is money. Unless you’re a millionaire, it’s almost impossible to inoculate yourself from that stress.
But you can put up barriers and defenses — not the least of which are having an emergency fund and asking for a discount.
How do you deal with the stress of paying for health care? I’d love to talk about this in the comments section below.