Showing posts with label medical debt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label medical debt. Show all posts

Monday, September 10, 2012

Health Insurance--A Necessary Evil?

Well, I believe I mentioned last week about how much our health insurance went up. This, of course happened at the same time as several other trials (can stuff just stop breaking? Nah! That'd mean you wouldn't need to buy new stuff and companies can't have that hurting their bottom lines!).

Anyway, I'll admit we seriously considered just going without health insurance period. I know some people are paying more than we are, but our share (with my hubby's employer paying half) is a little over $606 a month. The prescription benefits are crappy, our individual deductible is $1,000, the family deductible is $3,000 and honestly we just try not to use it unless it's for preventative because co-pays have gone up to $30 for a regular doctor and $50 for specialists. Our daughter's dislocated elbow that took 3 seconds to fix in the ER cost us $250. Yeah....not pretty.

We did try to qualify for UPP, but they've made it so difficult. Even though we met all the main criteria, we didn't qualify simply because we've already had the employer's insurance, so even if it was a new enrollment period and they had moved to a new plan (at a much higher rate) they said we'd have to not be on the employer's insurance before new enrollment starts and apply again during the next enrollment, period. Of all the stupid stipulations I've heard! Seriously?

But when it came down to it, we just couldn't make the jump to no insurance. Still, we can't afford to keep our current insurance. So we did some research down different avenues and ultimately decided to go out on our own with a high deductible plan with a Health Savings Account. We found a good agent who's helped us figure out the pros and cons of each plan and guided us in the right direction.

Our kids will be going on CHIP (something we'd never have even considered before the economy tanked). It'll take 90 days before they can go on it after our insurance is cancelled, which does make us a little nervous. We prefer the IHC facilities though and they have a financial assistance program for those who need it, so if an emergency occurs, we'll have to take advantage of that.

I haven't heard good things about State dental insurance, so we'll be getting our own plan for that too, for the whole family. Overall, this route is going to save us almost $400/month. That's nothing to sneeze at, for sure. We'll be able to find a use for that money easily!

I'll be honest that it's a little embarrassing to share some of these hardships with everyone here. There's always the chance that we'll be judged and found lacking. Oh well. I can't let my pride stop me from helping others out there who might need this information for their own families. We never asked for these things to happen. Five years ago we were living well and doing fine financially. Things changed--for a lot of people. We just have to make the best of it and survive how we can, I guess.

I am thankful though that my husband has been able to keep his job, even if his hours have significantly decreased. I know that there are those who have flat-out lost their jobs and their homes. We've managed, through the grace of God, to retain both. It's a miracle that with Bank of America's track record at the time of only 3% of people applying for the the government loan modifications receiving them, that we got a successful modification (not that I didn't fight tooth and nail for it~ Hah!).

So this will be a new experience for us. We prayed a lot before deciding on this course and I feel like we're making the right decision. Time will tell where it will go.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are Medical Bills Dragging You Down?

I know first hand how medical debt can put a strangle-hold on you. In our family we've experienced: 3 appendix surgeries, 1 gall bladder surgery, 1 surgery to repair a hernia, 1 laparoscopy, 2 ear tube surgeries (the second was a replacement one with adenoid removal) and 1 foot surgery on two feet. Add to that having 4 babies, emergency room visits and the normal doctor and dental care, and you've got a lot of medical debt, even with insurance.

At first, I thought that I just had to pay the bill in full, without question. Then it became apparent, as things racked up, that it just wasn't possible for us to do that. That's when I started making calls. The first ones were for the bills my insurance was refusing to cover. In one case, they'd refused to cover an emergency apendectomy performed by a doctor out of their network. This is what I told them, "I went to a covered hospital in severe pain and feeling extremely sick. I figured I was safe since they were listed in your network. I'm sorry that I didn't think to ask them when they told me I was having emergency surgery if the doctor performing it was covered by my insurance. My appendix was about to burst." They paid the bill.

As for the bills that weren't covered by insurace, I called the doctor's billing office myself and asked if they would discount my bill, since my insurance wasn't going to cover any of it. All of them did--some of them by as much as 50%!

Another thing I was able to do was set up payment arrangements for the bills I couldn't afford to pay all at once. If they suggested an amount that I couldn't afford, I told them a lower number that I could manage. If they hesitated, I would tell them that I would love to pay more, but I had a long list of other bills, all of which I'm having to make payments on, and that was the best I could do. They all accepted that.

Also know, that as long as they are accepting your monthly payments, they aren't supposed to send you to collections because you are showing a good effort in repaying your debt. If you are sent to collections by mistake (which happened to me once) call them and tell them. If you are patient, but insistent, chances are they'll take the account back out of collections (Yes, this is possible).

One thing that helped us was that several of our bills were for the same company (Intermountain Healthcare), and when I called them about all of my bills (I had six with them at the time) they combined them all in one, with just one affordable monthly payment that was much lower than the six payments I had been making. So if you notice that any of your bills are for the same provider, or medical institution, see if they will do that same thing for you.

Another thing that some of them are able to do, but they don't advertise, is write your bill off. If you are having a rough time financially, and unable to pay your bill, explain your situation and ask them if they are able to write any of it off. Some of them are allowed to do that with a certain number of accounts each year, and it doesn't hurt your credit. Many of them also have programs for low-income families, which will help you to take care of your bills. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Make them an offer. If you do have most of the money you need to pay for a certain bill, ask if they will accept that lower amount. A lot of them will! I did this last year when I got my tax return. I called my dentist's office and asked if they would discount the bill if I would make the lowered payment in full and they did! I saved over one hundred dollars that time.

The bottom line is that most of your providers will be willing to work with you. Also, don't necessarily take the first answer from your health insurance if you think something should've been covered. Appeal it. Lots of people get their way when they do this.

I wish you all luck in lowering your medical debt this year! Let me know if this works for you, or if you have any other tips to help.