The Senate healthcare vote has been postponed and the fate of over 22 million US citizens’ access to healthcare remains unknown. Questions loom large about what a new plan might look like and the affordability of healthcare in general. As those with pre-existing medical conditions fear the possibility of losing their insurance, proposed cuts to Medicaid could eliminate coverage for 130 million citizens. Changes to Medicaid eligibility could also make nursing home affordability out of reach for retirees who have no other housing options.
Sadly, the common thread that winds around all these scenarios is increasing financial hardship for those affected.
With the possibility of lower interest rates, people are increasingly turning to personal loans over credit cards to pay for medical expense. The expenses can extend beyond procedures to things like prescriptions, tests or appointments; as well as unpaid sick days or travel costs to get special treatments far from home. With fixed-terms, fixed-rates and no prepayment penalties, personal loans through a platform like Prosper can be a smart alternative to finance these expenses.
But what can you do to prevent or manage medical debt before it’s time to take out a loan?
1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Taking steps to stop something before it happens is easier than repairing any damage after it’s done. Investing in regular checkups that would screen for pre-diabetes is going to be a lot less expensive than suffering the health costs of developing diabetes and the financial costs of treating it. Get those regular check-ups and find an affordable community health resource in your area if you have no insurance or can’t afford your premiums.
2. Review your bills and negotiate payment
Let’s say you’ve taken preventative steps, but something unexpected happens. You get in a car accident, hit by an uninsured driver and wouldn’t you know, that two day hospital stay to get your broken femur stabilized and all the MRIs add up to tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected bills.
First, carefully review the accuracy of your medical bills and make sure you’re not being overcharged. Get an itemized invoice and ask questions about charges and procedure codes you don’t understand. Also, check for duplicate charges – a common mistake on bills.
Once billing adjustments have been made and the charges are accurate, then it’s time to pay the piper. If you can’t afford the total, negotiate payment. Find out if the medical provider has a payment plan, better yet ask for a discount. Also, check to see if the state you live in has caps on what hospitals can charge for services.
3. Plan for the Golden Years
Some friends and I have long joked about buying an apartment complex in Palm Springs where decades from now we retire as neighbors and live out our Golden Girls fantasy of aging together. And while it’s fun to imagine us all aging like we’re in a sitcom with a pastel living room, the inevitable reality of our bodies breaking down is not so funny.
Consider taking out long term care insurance which helps cover costs associated with nursing homes, home health care or adult day care for adults over 65 and others with chronic or debilitating physical conditions. The younger you are when you get LTC insurance, the cheaper it is. Premiums go up as you age, but it’s better to start coverage earlier than later.
Cutting access to healthcare doesn’t mean health care costs go down for the nation, it means that the burden will be felt elsewhere, so educate yourself about the options with an eye on your health and wallet prospering.