Fifteen years ago my wife needed to undergo a very serious neurosurgery procedure to repair a couple of growing aneurisms. One of the procedures required them to freeze her down to 47 Degrees Fahrenheit and stop all her body functions for almost half an hour while they repaired an aneurism within her brain. The other repair procedure was not as evasive. But, she was in intensive care for three weeks and another week in recovery. With these two operations, skilled medical doctors, trained medical staff, equipment and a month in the hospital, the bill came to more than $700,000. This would have taken everything I had and still left me in debt, more than half a million dollars, if it hadn’t been for the excellent medical insurance coverage I had through the company I was working for. The insurance covered all the medical costs and even my lodging for that month while she was in an out-of-state hospital. In fact, a few years earlier I had a hip replacement done because of a childhood injury I had incurred about 35 years earlier, and they covered all the medical expenses for that operation as well.
Today finding a company to work for with that kind of medical coverage, or being able to purchase affordable medical coverage is not an option for most of us any more. Now, having excellent medical coverage is a real luxury, which is only available to the upper 20% of our population, who can afford to purchase or who work for a company with such wonderful medical coverage.
So, when you become confronted with medical expenses which are more than you can afford and you don’t have any medical insurance, what do you do? Most hospitals and even some medical doctors have financial assistance programs available. To qualify for these medical assistance programs is a bit time-consuming, but when you owe or are looking at several thousand in medical bills, the time spent is well worth it.
A year ago last January (2010) I was laid off and lost my income and what little medical insurance I had. Not being able to find work, I took an early retirement to provide some kind of income while continuing to look for another position. Then last December (still 2010) my wife began having very sharp stabbing head pains. We went to several doctors and specialist, to no avail, in trying to locate the cause of these very sharp head pains. In the process we were running up medical debts which were way beyond what we could afford to pay. In talking with the hospital’s finance office, they suggested that we apply for their financial assistance program. We did and they covered more than $3,000 of our medical obligations. That alone cut our total medical expenses in half and they even covered the Medical Center Pain Clinic expenses, which is providing relief for my wife, from her sharp head pains.
Bottom line, you need to talk with the medical group’s financial office, and ask if they have any financial hardship assistance programs available. The worst they can say is NO. But most will want to help you pay your bills. Some may cover only a third, while others may cover half of what you owe and put the remaining balance into a low-interest payment account. There are even some hospitals that will cover all of what you owe. To qualify, you will need to provide information on all your medical bills, house expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities), other bills you pay on and your household incomes. Copies of these bills, expenses and your income will be required. Your qualification for an assistance program will depend on your household income and your expenses.
Here are a couple of U.S. Government organizations that provide medical assistance programs:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201 Phone: 202-619-0257 Toll-free: 1-877-696-6775
Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Parklawn Building, Room 18-05, 5600 Fisher Lane, Rockville, MD 20857 Phone: 301-443-2170 Fax: 301-443-1787
If you are still in need of medical assistance programs, try doing an internet search for: “Assistance with Paying for Medical Care and Procedures” or “Food / Medical / Financial Assistance.” These will bring up several other organizations that may be able to assist you with your medical and other financial needs.
Another possible program is “Medicaid Waivers.” In some states a family can apply for a Medicaid Waiver where they will consider the Disabled Person’s income only and not the whole family’s (household) income to determine a disabled person’s eligibility for Medicaid. Contact your local Social Security Office for more details.