I just re-read an old post from October 2008 about the impact of medical debt on some families. Back then, I didn’t have any experience with huge, and most importantly, continuing, medical bills. The biggest medical bill I’d ever paid was for giving birth.
But then we had our family medical crisis earlier this year, which involved multiple emergency visits, a hospitalization, and then numerous follow-up visits and tests. As the bills rolled in and added up, it was overwhelming at first, even for me – and I had money in the bank to pay all of the bills! It was just difficult to accept that we suddenly owed so much money to a handful of medical providers. (Fortunately, the big bills have been paid and it’s just the bills from the follow-up visits that are trickling in – and those are for perfectly sane amounts.)
The experience gave me some insight into how scary it must be for people who don’t have an emergency fund. The medical bills add up incredibly quickly – I now understand how people who were living within (but not necessarily below) their means can so quickly end up deep in debt. I can now see how, if you don’t have much savings or insurance coverage, you can blow through the savings you do have, find yourself having to choose between paying the bills you’ve always had or the newly arrived medical bills, and eventually end up without a home.
The lesson here, of course, is that your best shot at weathering the storm is preparation. Get health insurance. Do the research to find the most affordable plan with the greatest amount of coverage. And live below your means and build up your savings. Have enough to cover your annual deductible and maximum copay. And most of all, do your best to take care of your health because man, those medical bills are expensive!
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