Posts filed under ‘medical’

When an emergency occurs where will you turn for money?

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Spilled Medicine

A wave of anxiety washed over me as I walked into the examination room. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I knew something just didn’t feel right. For days I had an overwhelming desire to just stay in bed. I lost the energy to leave the house or even move around inside of it. I felt the utter lethargy of the flu without any other flu-like symptoms. I wasn’t feverish. I had no cough and my nose wasn’t runny.

I sat in front of the doctor and calmly listed out my symptoms. I told her my back, arm and shoulder were aching and most importantly that I was physically worn out. I was exhausted by a simple day of work, which involved little to no activity. I was unable to draw in a deep breath and it felt like a heavy weight was pressed against my chest. The doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, but the tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary. I was told a clear x-ray meant I had “absolutely nothing to worry about.”

No further tests were ordered. No follow-up appointments were scheduled. Despite the doctor’s reassurance my health quickly took a turn for the worse. I returned to that same office two days later and begged that same doctor to help me. As she began to dismiss my symptoms I pulled off my shirt and revealed the bright blue veins that traversed my chest. “This is not normal,” I said in a shaky voice. She looked me in the eye and said, “You are only twenty-seven, I’m sure this is nothing.” Again she sent me off with a wave of her hand and a referral to see a specialist. The specialist didn’t have an appointment available for over three weeks, but it turns out I couldn’t wait that long for an answer.

Early the next morning I walked to the basement to wash clothes and found myself unable to climb back upstairs. I sat down unable to catch my breath and sobbed. Something was most definitely wrong. My husband drove me to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with a life threatening condition that required immediate medical attention. I learned three lessons from that experience:

  1. Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
  2. Illness and medical conditions can strike anyone at any time. Unfortunately age will not make you immune to them.
  3. If a doctor dismisses the urgency of your symptoms find another doctor or go to the emergency room (that trip to the ER saved my life!).

Within a week of my ER visit the first medical bill arrived in the mail. Luckily I had amazing health insurance, but even with insurance I owed over $8,000 for doctors visits and medical treatment that spanned a six-month period.


It’s easy to see how one unexpected injury or illness can wipe out your savings and land you in a sea of unpaid medical bills. You’ll spend whatever it takes to get better, but without solid financial planning debts can easily mount around you.

What if you fall unexpectedly ill? Do you have an emergency fund large enough to cover a medical crisis? If not, where would you turn for money if an emergency occurs?

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So what do you think? Are you financially prepared for an unexpected medical crisis or other emergency?

Be sure to visit the Discover brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

July 11, 2016 at 10:45 AM Leave a comment

Medical Insurance Update – Labor and Delivery Costs

piggy bank

Our medical bills for the delivery of baby #2 just arrived and so far we owe just over $560. This included a $250 copay plus hospital inpatient charges up to our $3000 deductible. Our insurance rolled over on December 1st and it seems we racked up $3000 worth of medical charges between then and now.

Due to my history of blood clots and advanced maternal age the doctors required weekly ultrasounds beginning in early February. Those radiology services amounted to nearly $900 worth of charges, but those weren’t the biggest hits to our wallet. Interestingly enough my husband’s podiatrist appointments accounted for the remaining $2000.

The good news, (if there can be any good news when talking about medical insurance), is that we shouldn’t owe anything other than co-pays from now until November 31st of this year. I’m going to tell my husband to go to the podiatrist as often as he needs to between now and that time.

Here is a price comparison between my first son’s birth in 2011 and my second son’s birth in 2015. These figures represent the total charged to insurance, not what we actually paid.

Year 2011 2015
Hospital Costs $3916 $4200
OB Costs $4470 $5655

We stayed in the hospital for two days after the birth of baby #1 but less than 32 hours after the birth of baby #2. Unfortunately I was in labor and delivery much longer this time around: nine hours compared to less than four last time. With my first son I labored at home for as long as possible. With baby number two there were more logistics to work around, like lining someone up to watch my older son and driving to the hospital just after a snowstorm.

Does $10,000 seem like a lot for the routine delivery of a child? Honestly, that number seems quite low to me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve paid so much for costs not covered by insurance over the years. I once received a $6,000 bill for a minor in-and-out procedure.

March 20, 2015 at 5:07 PM Leave a comment

Drug Store Frustrations


I drove to the drug store to pick up my prenatal vitamin refill on December 1st. I hoped to pick it up on November 30th, the last day before my health insurance renewed, but the idiotic pharmacy failed to fill it on time. They claimed this particular vitamin was out of stock when I called to see if it was ready. For the record, I placed the refill order on November 20th to ensure this kind of thing wouldn’t happen, but somehow the pharmacy still failed me. They claimed the problem occurred because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but they clearly had plenty of time to place the order before the holiday began.

I am partly to blame for this failure. I should have followed up a day or so before the 30th. I assumed ten days would give them plenty of time to complete the refill, obviously I was wrong.

The pharmacy’s delay would have cost me an additional $50. I say would have cost me, because I declined the prescription. I plan to call the doctor’s office on Monday to ask for a cheaper option, because paying $75 for a vitamin seems slightly insane.

If I can’t find a cheaper alternative I plan to investigate vitamins that can be purchased without prescription. My current vitamin includes DHA, which is a bit more expensive then the standard form, but over the counter vitamins don’t cost nearly that much. The question is whether or not they contain similar quantities of the nutrients I need. If they do then I’m happy to pay the $25 over the counter cost, rather than a $75 prescription markup.

Luckily it’s not all doom and gloom. On the bright side I used the Rite Aid UP Rewards from the previous prescription refill to purchase a bunch of items for free on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I bought hair ties, q-tips and other personal and household supplies that we actually needed. Each of these purchases kicked out another UP Reward, which means I still have another $25 to spend at the drug store. Diapers are on sale again tomorrow, so I might buy a few more packs to add to my stockpile. Between a few printable coupons and the drugstore rewards program I should be able to purchase another four packs for free.

This doesn’t exactly make up for the $50 difference in prescription costs this month, but it’s better than nothing.

Photo Credit

December 6, 2014 at 10:57 PM 6 comments

Insurance Renewal Time: Our Deductible Resets to $3000

laptop and stethoscope

Our insurance plan will renew on December 1st, which unfortunately means that the clock will also reset on our deductible. With a high deductible insurance plan my husband and I will have to shell out $3000 before our insurance kicks in any money for doctors visits or prescriptions.

This is only the second year we’ve subscribed to one of these plans and due to a series of unforeseen medical issues it is the first time we actually met our deductible. Unfortunately we paid $2600, (last year’s deductible), before the insurance company threw in a dime.

Since we’ve already paid the maximum amount this year I’m looking to see what other medical expenses I can squeeze in before year’s end. My first goal is to fill all of our prescriptions prior to December 1st. According to my pharmacist I can renew prescriptions after 75% of the medication has been used. I have two prescriptions to refill. One of them is eligible for renewal just two days before my deductible resets! I actually scheduled a calendar alert to remind me on the day I am eligible.

I plan to get the most bang for my buck by transferring those prescriptions to a different pharmacy. We have three pharmacies within a mile or two of our home, so it doesn’t really matter which I choose. I’ll earn two $25 gift cards just for making the switch. One of the prescriptions cost $25, so that extra money is kind of a wash. The other one doesn’t cost us anything so using the prescription transfer is kind of like earning free money.

As far as doctors are concerned I’m hopeful that my husband’s medical issues won’t require too many follow-up appointments. If we hadn’t already met the deductible his last visit to the podiatrist would have cost us $910! Luckily his next appointment falls a week or two before December 1st and he’s already feeling better from just one visit, which is really great news!

My son also needs a follow-up appointment to the pediatrician. He may actually need two visits and although I can squeeze one in early next week I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fit in another one before the looming deadline. According to the last explanation of benefits a similar appointment will cost us at least $140.

I miss the days of $250 an $500 deductibles, but I don’t miss the higher monthly premiums that come from selecting those options. I keep reminding myself that even if we do pay the entire $3000 deductible again next year we’ll still pay less than we would for a more traditional plan. It doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better, but it’s something.

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November 5, 2014 at 5:13 PM 3 comments

Insurance Options: HSA, HMO or PPO

piggy bank

I sat down this weekend to review our insurance options for next year. As owners of a small company my husband and I spend a ridiculous amount of money on insurance premiums each month. I don’t miss much about my working days, but I do miss the benefit of employer provided insurance. In 2011, (the last year I was gainfully employed), I paid less than $2000 in premiums for an entire year’s worth of insurance! My employer paid $8,725. These days we are on the hook for the entire $10,000 to $18,000 bill!

Our options for next year include three different plans; a PPO, an HMO and a high deductible HSA plan. The breakdown is as follows:

Type of Plan Monthly Premium
PPO $1,541.71
HMO $1,082.90
HSA $843.07

These numbers are quite specific to our little family of three. The premium is based on each of our ages, so I know that the PPO plan costs $611.94 for me, $615.89 for my husband and $313.88 for my son.

The difference in premiums is quite substantial. The PPO plan costs $698.64 more than the HSA plan per month and $8,383.68 per year.

Type of Plan Yearly Premium
PPO $18,500.52
HMO $12,994.80
HSA $10,116.84

Of course the premium calculation is not the only factor to consider. The breakdown of deductible costs are as follows:

Type of Plan Deductible
PPO $500
HMO $0
HSA $3000

Comparing medical plans is like comparing apples to oranges. To better even the score I added deductibles to the yearly premium totals. In the worst case scenario, (like this year), we will pay the entire deductible before our insurance kicks in.

Type of Plan Yearly Premium + Deductible
PPO $19,000.52
HMO $12,994.80
HSA $13,116.84

As you can see the HMO plan is the cheapest overall option, but I am not a fan of HMO plans. I’ve experienced my fair share of medical issues and I know how difficult it can be to navigate the health care system when troubles abound. I have no desire to wait around for doctor referrals when I am in pain or in need of care. Especially not to save $122.04 a year.

After ruling out the HMO I tried to break down the costs of the PPO and High Deductible plan even further. There are definitely more upfront costs with the high deductible plan. For example, I would owe a $30 copay for medical treatments like allergy shots, physical therapy, and acupuncture. The same goes for x-rays, lab work and other diagnostic procedures. If we experienced a truly horrible year we could easily pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for these services. The maximum out of pocket costs for the HSA plan are $8,000, which means I could pay a total of $5,000 more after meeting the yearly $3,000 deductible.

It seems even in the very worst case scenario the HSA plan is a better deal. After accounting for deductibles the difference between the HSA and PPO plan is $5,883.68, which means even in the very worst case scenario I will save $883.68 by choosing the HSA plan.

The high deductible plan also allows me to save $6,650 per year in a tax advantaged account, which means some of my dollars will be spent before tax further boosting my overall savings.

What do you think? Am I missing something important? Is there something else I should consider when choosing between these plans?

October 12, 2014 at 5:55 PM Leave a comment

A Happy Medical Bill Update

Medicine Bottle

I appealed my unexpectedly high out of town medical bill and received notification that a portion of my $875 bill will be covered after all. Since the facility is out of network I am responsible for 20% coinsurance on the total, which amounts to $175. I also owe the negotiated rate, ($165.59), for a $268 doctor’s bill.

Rather than paying $1148 I now appear to owe only $340.59. (I say appear to owe because the Explanation of Benefits have not been finalized yet.)

Readers of this blog may remember that I was contemplating the decision to drive twelve hours roundtrip to avoid paying out-of-network prices. I would have paid roughly $80 in gas plus a $30 copay to drive north, which means staying put only cost me $230.59 more and a whole lot less hassle and headaches.


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October 10, 2014 at 5:17 PM 4 comments

That Out-of-Town Medical Bill Gets Bigger!


Last month, after much contemplation, I decided to remain in North Carolina rather than driving over two hundred and sixty miles back to Maryland for an unexpected medical test.

I was all set to pay a higher price for that procedure and called in advance to receive a quote. Unfortunately, on the day of the scan the hospital could not confirm the quoted price.

My original $550 estimate went right out the window. It was too late to choose a different facility, (the test had to be performed within a specific time frame), so I proceeded without any idea of what I might actually owe.

Well the first bills have arrived and my final cost is twice the original estimate! The quoted $550 procedure was correct, but an additional and completely unexpected charge of $330 was included in my bill along with an additional doctor’s bill of $268. The ugly total; a whooping $1148!

On top of that my insurance company has denied the claim due to lack of preauthorization. I knew that I would pay the out-of-pocket total but I hoped that out-of-network rates would apply and that the final payment would be added to my yearly deductible. As of now, no such luck.

For those wondering I did ask the doctor’s office requesting the exam to seek preauthorization from the insurance company a week before the test was scheduled. They called twice and were told on both occasions that preauthorization was not necessary. So my only recourse is to appeal the denial and hope that the claim is reprocessed.

Despite this rather hefty medical bill I am still happy with my decision to stay in North Carolina on the day of the test. My family was in town with me that week and I did not tell them about the scan. I don’t like them to worry necessarily. If I had gone home I inevitably would have told them or lied to them about my need to return to Maryland.

It would have been a six hour drive each way, which would have been a twelve hour round trip, not including the time at the doctor’s office getting scanned or a twelve hour drive plus an overnight stay in Maryland away from my family.

If the outcome was poor I would have spent six hours driving alone contemplating those results, which would have made for a rather somber and depressing ride.

I am certainly not happy paying over $1100 for a procedure that should have cost nothing more than a $30 copay. I am still hopeful that the claim can be properly appealed and that the final cost will be closer to five or six hundred dollars.

It was certainly not the frugal choice, but if I choose the frugal options all along the way, then every once in awhile I should get to select an option that makes sense in ways that aren’t financial. At least that’s what I’m telling myself to help me feel better.

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September 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM Leave a comment

A Follow Up to That $440 Question


I decided to spend the extra money to avoid the twelve hour round trip drive from our vacation spot to my doctor’s home office. I’m frugal enough in other aspects of my life to weather the $440 bill. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the hospital the clinical staff could not confirm the cost of my test. I was told that my initial estimate was probably correct, but that the hospital could not provide the exact cost. Apparently the hospital farms out their billing processes to a third party who could not be reached to provide an estimate either.

I asked if I could receive the total cost and pay cash up front and in advance to receive a discount, but since they couldn’t provide a price they had no way of making this happen. So I have no idea if the bill will be larger or smaller than the $550 I was originally quoted. This gets a little scary when it comes to medical procedures because something that should cost $550 may very well end up costing me $3000.

At that exact moment in time I had no choice but to move forward with the test. I could not reschedule a test closer to home within the necessary time frame required by my doctor.

When my doctor received the results of the exam they told me I would need to have it repeated. While the test revealed a number of items the doctors were looking for, it was inconclusive about one specific issue.

A commenter on my blog asked if the test might need to be repeated and while I knew it was a slim chance I nearly laughed out loud when the nurse told me they only trust their own technicians.

The day after I return from vacation I will drive to the doctors office for a repeat scan. At least I know I’ll only owe a $30 co-pay this time around. I am a bit terrified that this last scan is going to cost me an inordinate amount of money!

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August 17, 2014 at 4:37 PM 2 comments

What Would You Do? Drive 12 Hours to Save $440?

piggy bank

My doctor wants me to undergo a specific medical test. I am currently out of town and didn’t plan to return for at least three weeks. If I seek medical attention while I’m away all services will be priced out-of-network, which means I will pay full price. We are not even close to meeting our $4000 out-of-network deductible for the year.

The estimate for the procedure is roughly $550. In order to use my in-network services I need to drive over six hours home and another six hours back. That’s twelve hours of driving I did not intend to incur.

I initially planned to make the long drive, but after further consideration I’m just not so sure. I’ll need to drive a total of twelve hours alone. I would probably drive home the night before the test, drive to the test that morning and then drive back to the beach. I’ve done this before, but twelve hours in the car alone is quite exhausting.

If I make the drive home I’ll owe a $30 co-pay plus at least $80 in gas expenses. That makes a $440 difference between using an in-network provider versus a local out-of-network provider. (I’ve already met my in-network deductible for the year.)

So what do you think? Should I make the long haul back to my in-network doctor and save myself $440 or should I suck up the cost, stay at the beach and keep in my mind that I have plenty of money saved to pay this bill, even though I absolutely hate to pay that much money unnecessarily?

Honestly I cannot decide what to do and for those that are wondering I cannot delay the timing of the test. It must be performed during the three weeks that I am scheduled to be away.

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August 9, 2014 at 11:56 AM 8 comments

I Have No Idea What I Owe

Medical Bills

For over a decade I bought my health insurance through my employer. I paid a couple hundred dollars a month for a PPO plan and my company subsidized the rest. That insurance plan seemed to cover everything. If I needed to visit an acupuncturist, chiropractor or any type of specialist I paid a small co-pay and very little else. I paid a few hundred dollars for this care and my employer picked up the rest of the tab. I had no idea how valuable that benefit until 2011 when I was laid off.

When my job ended I opted to use COBRA for a year. My son was born a few days prior to the layoff and I wanted solid insurance in case anything should happen. Thankfully we never needed our insurance that year, but we continued to pay a $1500 monthly bill nonetheless.

Shortly before my COBRA coverage was set to expire we switched to a high deductible insurance plan. Even with the high deductible we still pay over a thousand dollars a month. The new insurance plan seems to cover a lot less than the old one. Acupuncture and chiropractic work are no longer included a long with a whole host of other treatments.

I understand that I no longer have access to the rolls royce of insurance plans, but I am amazed by how little the plan covers given that I pay only a few hundred dollars less. The most troublesome part of my new insurance plan is the amount of time it takes them to process claims. My previous insurer would process claims within a matter of days. The new one takes months. I am still waiting on claims from February to be finalized.

Between February and now I visited a multitude of doctors in hopes of curing my antibiotic induced neuropathy. I have a general idea how much my appointments and tests cost, but I have absolutely no idea what I will actually owe. I have to wait to see how the insurance company’s negotiated charges impact the bottom line. I have a $2600 family deductible and at this point I would assume I already owe that entire amount. Though it would certainly be nice to receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) detailing that fact.

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May 2, 2014 at 6:31 PM 6 comments

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