Medical costs have the potential to add up quickly, and this is doubly true if you require surgery. In this kind of situation, you might have to seek financing, borrowing money the way you would for a car or house.
Overcoming a serious injury or condition can be challenging, and not just because of the physical implications. Before your procedure, you should do some serious planning to avoid the financial quagmire that can follow.
So how do you preserve your finances and ensure your financial security after an expensive surgery?
Understand the Costs
Budgeting has become a bit of a lost art. Even when you don’t know you’re going to be undertaking a major medical operation, it’s still helpful to understand the ebb and flow of your finances.
If you can go into paying for surgery with budgeting in mind, you’ll be much better equipped. You can plan your next moves, consider different financing options and get a head start on finding help to pay for the procedure if you need it.
First, you need to figure out your basic expenses. How much does it cost you every month to cover your housing, food, utilities and transportation needs? When you have that number, you can break it down into a weekly budget.
Any money left over becomes surplus, but that doesn’t mean you should spend it where you like. Whatever you save can come in handy if you need to make a big purchase.
It’s important to do the math both before and after the procedure. Understanding where you’re coming up short might inform the way you go about managing your medical debt in the aftermath. It can look quite different if you’re only short a few bucks versus being completely unable to pay.
Leverage Your Benefits
Insurance is one of the best perks of a good job. Make sure you take advantage of the full spectrum of benefits if you are staring down a major surgery. While you might have a copay that kicks in automatically, sometimes claiming additional coverage can require some legwork.
Supplemental insurance, for example, is a benefit some employers provide, as well as one you can purchase of your own accord. It pays cash to those who’ve suffered injuries on or off the job, which can be a quick way to boost your ability to pay immediate medical expenses. However, you’ve got to understand the process by which you can access the benefit.
Contact your human resources department or call your insurance company directly if you’re not employed. Let them know you’re planning to undergo major surgery and share as much detail on the surgery costs and procedures as you’re comfortable with. They should be able to advise you on how to get the most out of your plan.
Protect Your Employment
Your job is probably your most consistent form of income. Major surgery can mean you won’t be able to work for some time, and you have to protect your position. Without it, you may not be able to pay down your expenses. Luckily, there are laws that provide this sort of protection to you, but you need to have a conversation with your employer about going on health care leave.
If you use your leave without meeting the right qualifications, you can be stripped of the benefit. Make sure you understand your employer’s requirements for short-term disability.
Also, consider things like intermittent or long-term FMLA coverage. It protects your job security during events like maternity leave or if you have a condition that might require you to take time away from work. It can even offer benefits if you have a family member that you need to care for.
Negotiate the Costs
It might shock you to learn, but many medical providers can and will help you bring down costs if you’re subject to financial hardship. A payment plan is probably the most straightforward way to do this and is a common technique used by people who have major procedures all the time.
Let your medical provider know you would like to implement a plan, and their finance department can work with you to figure out scheduled monthly payments. If you have significant financial hardships and out of pocket costs, they may even be able to reduce what you pay for specific services.
While spreading your payments out is always attractive at first glance, there can be hidden costs involved. Ask whether there are additional fees incurred that, while they might allow you to pay a lower amount incrementally, will add up to a larger amount in the long run. You still may not be able to avoid them, but you should push for the original cost of your procedure.
Use a Medical Card
Just like you have a special credit card for travel expenses, there are credit cards that carry specific benefits for those who need to pay medical bills. You may be able to make arrangements to use such a card with your hospital at the time of your procedure.
As with any credit card, make sure you fully understand all the implications of using it. Some cards will offer benefits such as deferred interest for the first 12 months. However, if your interest rate is going to skyrocket after one year, you’ll want to be sure the card is paid off by that time.
Hire an Advocate
In some situations, you might need to hire a medical advocate to make the system work on your behalf. If you don’t have a working understanding of how to navigate your situation, it could be a good option.
Keep in mind that using an advocate will incur an additional cost for you. The tradeoff you make is that the reduction in overall expenses should offset the costs of the professional.
Don’t Just Throw Money at the Problem
Paying for a significant procedure can be daunting, but if you don’t stop to think before going through it, you could wind up much worse off in the long-run. You need to consider all your options. If you’re not informed, take the time to do your research and speak to people working on your behalf.
There is a multitude of resources available for you. In many situations, people fail to take advantage of perks they didn’t know existed. Don’t let that happen to you. Be smart and save yourself the heartache. Recovery will be much easier that way.
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