Financial planning for Surprise Medical Bills


Costly medical emergencies have the potential to impose a significant financial strain. It’s important to recognize that unexpected and expensive health issues can affect anyone. While we can’t predict when or if we’ll face an unforeseen health challenge, we can take steps to be financially ready. Below are some approaches to kick start your preparations.

The Current Landscape of Medical Insurance

First and foremost, ensuring you have the appropriate health insurance in place is crucial for managing the financial aftermath of a health crisis.

Many individuals acquire coverage either through their employer, via an individual policy, or as part of a government program like Medicaid or Medicare. Irrespective of your insurance source, it has become increasingly common to encounter co-pays or deductibles when seeking medical attention. Hence, your financial responsibility extends beyond the premiums you may be accountable for. Depending on your policy, you might potentially face out-of-pocket expenses amounting to several thousand dollars.

A practical approach to mitigating these costs involves being mindful of whether the healthcare providers you engage with are considered ‘in-network’ or ‘out-of-network’. Generally, when working with in-network providers, your personal financial liability is limited, but utilizing out-of-network services could result in less comprehensive insurance coverage.

In emergency scenarios, you may have limited control over your care provider, potentially leading to unexpectedly high bills for those who assumed their health insurance would fully cover them.

Taking the time to comprehend what is covered and what isn’t under your current health insurance policy will equip you with a clearer understanding of the potential financial ramifications.

Insurance Alone Won’t Suffice – Prepare For This

While health insurance can mitigate a significant portion of the financial risk, it doesn’t entirely eliminate it. It’s prudent to have funds set aside in an emergency fund to cover any additional expenses.

Conventional wisdom suggests setting aside an amount equivalent to three to six months’ worth of household income in an emergency fund. These funds should be easily accessible and kept in vehicles such as bank savings accounts or money market funds. Given the steady rise in inflation and the cost of living, it might be advisable to have an even more substantial emergency fund, equivalent to nine months or more of income.

If feasible, try to refrain from depleting accounts earmarked for long-term objectives like retirement or education expenses. Having a dedicated cash reserve in place ensures you can manage unexpected medical bills without dipping into savings meant for other purposes.

Short-term disability insurance options also serve as vital financial protection. In the event that you need to take time off work due to an illness or injury, these policies typically offer a specified portion of your paycheck to cover expenses. Evaluate any options offered by your employer and consider purchasing a policy or upgrading an existing one if necessary.

Additional Measures to Contemplate

In the event you’re struggling to cover your bills, here are alternative measures to explore:

  1. Engage in a discussion with your healthcare provider to potentially negotiate the charges or establish a payment plan that aligns with your financial capacity.
  2. Seek advice from a credit counselor who can assist you in devising a tailored solution to address your financial difficulties.
  3. When confronted with a significant medical occurrence, your primary concern should not be the financial burden. Preparing in advance is your strongest safeguard against unexpected expenses. Your financial advisor can collaborate with you to ensure you are adequately equipped.