Medical Bills is our families BIGGEST financial struggle- it’s no secret. Many teachers have pathetic health insurance- and I know a lot of you do too! And unfortunately unless my husband moves out of our school district it looks like it will always be our biggest expense as long we live here! I just my hospital bill in the mail this week which was almost $1600. When you are on an already tight budget how in the world do you pay something like that off? It quickly compounds when kids go to the doctor, and the bills start flying in. Unfortunately I don’t have any magic secret (if you’ve found one let me know!!). Every year when our insurance is due to renew we shop around and look for a better one but usually without much luck. (We can only switch our insurance once a year.)
Since we usually have several different medical payments due every month here are a few ways to help manage the bills. I won’t lie, it is still hard and gets you down sometimes, but here are a few ideas that may help you! Be proactive! Instead of simply paying your payments every month, brainstorm each month to see if there is any way that you can set things up differently!
- Set up a payment plan. This is a #1 necessity when we receive in a large medical bill. If it’s under $100 we pay it up front. If it’s larger than we can handle in a month we set up payments. One nice thing that I have found about medical payments is that (at least for us)- our medical payments never have interest. I’ve been on payment plans for 2-3 years on one bill and never paid interest. It doesn’t seem like much but interest really adds up quick. At least I can look at the calendar and see exactly when the payments will be done!
- I have found that if you absolutely cannot pay your monthly payment, as long as you don’t do this every month, most places are willing to allow you to pay less for a month or two to fit your budget. If you can though, pay a little extra on the “good” months- even if it’s only $10. In fact I make it a point every month to pay extra unless we really can’t afford the extra $10.
- Every month ask if they will give you a discount if you pay it all up front. Even if the bill is only $100! Some of our bills never offer a discount. Some have told me that it depends on the day. One day their manager will tell them it’s a discount day and then they will allow it. Every company is different.
- Sometimes it is cheaper to ask for the doctor bill without insurance as a self-pay. Sounds crazy I know. Typically when a doctor/hospital charges an amount with insurance it is highly inflated. If you have to pay 100% up to a high deductible that you know you probably won’t meet anyways, the self-pay without insurance rate is usually considerably cheaper. It won’t go towards your deductible this way, but if you aren’t expecting a lot of bills it may be worth it!
- Use your tax return money! Sometimes after you have several different medical payments every month it gets extremely overwhelming! Our family uses our tax return money every year for bills (insurance, repairs, etc.) and a large amount of it is always always always set aside for medical bills. We spend at least $1000 of our tax return every year on medical bills. It can be a great morale boost if you can use that money to pay off 1, 2, or even 3 different bills!
- Sometimes in unique situations when you are expecting testing or therapy, you can discuss with the billing department if they will code it differently so that insurance will cover the cost. For example, my son needs occupational therapy for his sensory disorder, but my insurance will NOT cover anything sensory related. However, he DOES have a fine motor delay, and I was able to go back to the doctor and get him to re-write a prescription for billing purposes that specifically said “fine motor delay” NOT “sensory diagnosis”. I have found that many times doctors and billing centers are willing to work with you if possible to help you save money. This of course won’t work for a regular doctor appointment, but keep this in mind if you come across a situation where your insurance won’t cover something. If you ask the right questions you can find out what they DO cover, and see if you can get around it another way.
You can read this Penny Saver Daily Edition to learn how to save a good chunk of money on prescriptions!