One of the greatest struggles facing Americans today is the rising cost of healthcare. And while more patients have insurance coverage than in years past, healthcare costs – especially for those with chronic health conditions – can still be overwhelming.
What’s the best way to pay for healthcare costs as a patient with a chronic condition? There are several options available for when costs exceed a patient’s ability to pay. Here are three common approaches to paying for high medical expenses.
The situation: you’re leaving an appointment with your rheumatologist, the specialist who treats your fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic pain, sleep problems, hypersensitivity to smell, touch, or light, and severe fatigue, among other issues, is sometimes treated with medication and tender point injections – but now you find that your insurance doesn’t cover these treatments. What can you do?
You may have the option of applying for a medical credit card. Medical credit cards often seem promising – you will typically receive a zero percent interest promotional period, after which the interest rate will increase to match most other credit programs.
Many patients jump to apply for these cards sooner than they should – and some experts question whether they’re useful at all. First, medical payments are some of the most flexible around, allowing for partial payments and rarely accruing interest. Second, most major medical practices will work with you to create a payment plan. With these options available, a credit card becomes unnecessary.
Finally, while chronic health problems may create debt more slowly than a terminal illness, chronic health problems can accrue big bills over time. The need for continuous treatment makes the zero interest period of little value – there will always be more to pay.
Another option for financing your medical care when managing chronic conditions is by taking a medical loan. Some patients take out a medical loan when they know they have a particularly large expense coming – such as to pay for a surgery. If you’re handling your other medical expenses easily, this can be a smart move. Rather than having a huge expense dropped on you at once, a loan gives you an extended period of time to pay.
For patients with more difficulty paying their medical bills, however, medical loans can just leave you deeper in debt, since these loans may accrue interest and penalties if not paid on time. A medical loan won’t help you much if your regular medical bills have already exceeded your ability to pay.
When all else fails – or ideally before all else fails – there are always other forms of assistance available to help you cover your medical bills. Depending on the degree of your condition, you may qualify for government disability coverage and payments. This coverage is typically quite comprehensive and can reduce your expenses significantly.
You should also ask about financial assistance problems wherever you are being treated. Many hospitals and major medical systems have charitable programs that may be able to help if you’re financially strapped. Your doctor may also be able to enroll you in a program that will reduce your prescription costs.
Chronic health conditions can have serious implications for your finances, so it’s important to consult with a financial planner if you are worried about your ability to afford proper care. No one should have to go without the care they need – but along the way you’ll have to make smart financial decisions and advocate for yourself to stay in the green.