High Medical Bills May be Dangerous for your Financial Health
High medical bills and job loss related to an illness are the cause of many foreclosures and bankruptcies in the United States. I don’t think the average person realizes that an illness can place a huge burden on your finances until you are faced with a sudden illness or a chronic illness such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Those of us who are living with a chronic illness or struggling to care for a family member with a chronic illness know the real story.
The media is full of images of homeowners struggling to pay the mortgage on a house that was too big or too expensive for their budget. It is surprising to me how many families with a good job, a typical house and a car or two are struggling to keep up with their medical bills. An article that will be published in The American Journal of Medicine (August, 2009) states that bankruptcies from high medical bills has increased 50% from 2001 to 2007 and 60% of the bankruptcies are due to medical expenses or job loss from a medical condition.
My friend Karen has a nice house in the suburbs where she and her husband have raised 3 beautiful children. Her husband has a good job and an excellent insurance plan from his employer. Several of the children have severe reflux and asthma so there have been plenty of medical expenses: repeated visits to doctors and specialists, prescription medication, tests and even reflux surgery for one of the children. Yet even with private insurance, the co pays and yearly deductible have been overwhelming to their budget. First they maxed out their credit card, and then they got a line of credit. Now they are searching for a way to keep out of foreclosure which seems to be inevitable despite their best efforts to save money. No fancy trips or new cars in this household. It is all about cutting coupons and saving money anyway they can while every spare dollar goes toward paying for medical expenses.
I know the president and congress are considering strategies and proposals to provide health insurance for all Americans. However, I am concerned that providing insurance isn’t the only problem with assuring that everyone has access to medical care. The insurance needs to be affordable and the co pays and deductibles have to be reasonable enough so the average family can pay their bills and have a place to live too.