Jordan and I took a Dave Ramsey class a few years ago to learn how to budget and pay off debt. We worked really hard to pay off our debt. We have never been on a vacation. We have bought used cars, used lawnmowers, used furniture. Qudoba is a about as expensive as our fine dining gets.
While I was pregnant with Robbyn, Jordan picked up a second job cleaning the middle school in the evening to help expedite our debt repayments. We had paid off our school debt, one car, and were working on the last car. There was an end in sight!!
Then last April happened.
I’m not sure if you are aware but medical treatment is a smidge pricey.
Now, this is not a political post.
I work in the medical profession and I have seen amazing surgeons and anesthesiologists in action. They deserve to be compensated for the hard work and exceptional care they give to every single patient. They have been to school years longer than most of the population. And the technology in the OR alone is state of the art, always changing, and improving to give better care. To save more lives.
I understand that before any drug comes to market it is trialed and tested for years and there are chemists and researchers who have dedicated years to formulating and perfecting new medicines.
But the amount of bills that we acquired in the first 14 days was alarming between appointments for my cancer treatment, specialist appointments and testing for the little miss still in my belly.
In testing alone, the first 14 days I had an ultrasound for Robbyn, three ultrasounds for my breast, 2 biopsies and clip placement, an MRI, a chest X-ray, a cardiac echo, a PET scan, genetic testing.
I also had a round of steroid injections before delivery, an epidural, a delivery, a NICU stay all before I even started my first chemotherapy.
I saw three breast specialists, a medical oncologist, a maternal fetal medicine doctor, an obgyn, a genetic counselor. Not to mention all of the radiologists who read my tests.
I had a plethora of things done, utilizing many people’s expertise and years of training and study.
This post is not to say that I think healthcare should be free. I do not. We are willing to shell out a thousand dollars for a fancy new phone and spend thousands a year on food and entertainment but balk at a 20 dollar antibiotic. Well the world can’t thrive without medical professionals either and it costs money for them to spend almost a decade getting their degrees so they can save your life.
That’s not to say I don’t think there should be some improvement in the way healthcare is billed and delivered.
Personally, I think the whole system is broken, WORLDWIDE. There isn’t a healthcare system in the world that is fair to everyone; providers and patients. I was able to receive top of the line care because I live in a country that has done more medical research than any country. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that is mine. But that’s neither here nor there.
[Kari tries to gracefully exit her soapbox hoping she didn’t upset too many readers]
I was shocked to learn how much assistance there is for people going through treatment. There is the Shelby Cancer Society, the Indiana women in need (Iwin foundation), community hosptal has an income based billing assistance program, and St. Francis has assistance available as well.
I will tell you, no one was denying us care. No one asked if I knew how I would pay for this treatment.
I wasn’t told to wait for pre approval from my insurance company.
Now that’s not to say I wasn’t asked if I wanted to make a payment when I registered.
The morning I walked in for my PET scan the gal at the registration desk asked if I would like to pay 3800 dollars today or if I would like a bill sent.
Umm.. yes a bill please.
Unless you are prepared to try and catch my check as it bounces all the way to the bank!
I have great insurance through the hospital and the people I have dealt with on the phone have been SO very helpful. I have zero complaints. Our insurance for Community Hospital covered 70% of my bills. So we only owed 30%. I’m not great at math but even I know that 30% of 600,000 dollars is a little more than pocket change.
Well we met our out of pocket before chemo was half way over. Yes you heard me. I did not misspeak. Not our deductible. Our OUT OF POCKET!
So things got cheaper after that.
Robbyn spent 31 days in the NICU and accrued $153,139.50 in hospital bills and another 13,256.85 in physician bills.
To say thy she is high maintenance is an understatement.
She could not and would not be rushed. She would decide to breath on her own when she was good and ready.
Well it was July and we still had not received that bill. I called St. Francis billing department to ask if they knew what our portion of the bill would be yet.
She said it looked like the insurance company paid about $92,000 and our portion would be 60,000 dollars but the hospital wrote off our bill.
I asked her if she knew why and she said she wasn’t sure but she would take the money and run if I were her.
I hung up the phone. I was not going to ask anymore questions lest they discover it was someone else’s bill they meant to write off.
I sat in my car and sobbed. I had been dreading that bill for months.
All this to say...
Cancer is not cheap.
Premature babies are not cheap.
Chronic illnesses are not cheap.
Jordan and I have been very healthy. The most I go to the doctor is during poison ivy season or when Jordan refuses to wear protective goggles while working on home repairs.
There are people who have been battling chronic illness for years and have a revolving door of medical bills. We just happened to get hit with ours all at once.
What is my advice for you?
I’m so glad you asked!
(I know you didn’t ask. I don’t often have people seeking me out for words of wisdom. The Office quotes? Yes. Words of wisdom? Not so much.)
If you are healthy, get a handle on your finances now!
You and your family will not always be healthy. Someone will need medical care and I can tell you from experience, you don’t care how much it costs, you want the best care possible. If we had not been paying off our debts before this happened, we would have been in a real world of hurt.
16 of Jesus’s 28 parables talk about how we should handle our money and possessions. We are called to be good stewards of our money. We should not be spending more than we make if we want God to ever bless us with more.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”
We are also called to give generously and for the right reasons.
Matthew 6:3 says, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.”
We should give to those in need because of our love for Christ.
Jesus died on the cross to give you an eternity in heaven.
We should want to be as generous as he has been, giving to those who need our help,
those who we don’t think deserve our help,
and those who don’t want our help.
Just as Jesus extended his gift to everyone, so should we.
My family has been on the receiving end of generous giving since last year. We have had people hand us everything from large checks, to twenty dollars from people I know do not have twenty dollars to give.
At Major Hospital where I work, hospital-wide people donated their hard earned vacation hours and I did not go without a paycheck this past year. Talk about humbling!
The doctors I work with collected money and gave my family such a generous gift. We received gift card after gift card to help with expenses.
My favorite gift I have received was in the mail. Twice the past year I was mailed a card filled with Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards and Wendy’s gift cards with a note that simply said
I have no idea who sent it. That is the epitome of giving in secret.
I am not writing this to tell you to give Jordan and I money.
Please. DO. NOT!
We have received plenty.
I am writing this to encourage you to live and give generously.
I am sure you can think of one family struggling with a health crisis or job loss or has just fallen on hard times.
- Send them a gas card or a grocery card. (Those have been life savers for our family. )
- Drop a gift off at their doorstep.
- Pay for their meal if you see them out at a restaurant.
- Give them a hand shake with a 20 dollar bill slipped into their hand.
Don’t announce what you have done.
Give in secret. Give often.
You may not think you are in a financial situation to give, but I am sure you can find something in you budget to skip out on.
Give out of your surplus and give out of your need.
I do not think you will regret it.