Blog-friend The Travelin' Man has asked a number of people to start a wave of information on how to think about finances when you may be faced with a serious illness, as he is right now. Boy, is that a tough question to deal with, and one I felt quite unprepared to face. But as usual, my first impulse was to look for books with answers. One that might help is Aftershock: What to Do When the Doctor Gives You-- or Someone You Love-- a Devastating Diagnosis, by Jessie Gruman.
For many people , money might be the last thing on their mind if they are suddenly faced with a life-threatening diagnosis. But finances are something you should think about, and a chapter in this book is devoted to money issues.
In Chapter 8: Pay for Care, the author tells you what you need to know right away when you've received a serious diagnosis, for example:
- What doctors and health-care facilities specialize in your illness
- What your insurance co-pay and deductible are for in-network and out-of-network providers
- How much it will cost you if the specialist of your choice doesn't take your insurance
- What kind of pre-approval or notification does your insurance require to make sure services are covered
Whether or not you have health insurance, this diagnosis is likely to pose a threat-- the size of which is as yet unknown-- to your financial stability.The chapter includes the following advice:
- If you think there may be times when you are not going to be functioning well enough to take care of routine matters, make a list of bills and payments that will need to be made-- things like regular utility bills, but also things that might only come up infrequently, like life, auto, or property insurance. If you are going to be treated for your illness somewhere away from home, make sure to arrange for your mail to be forwarded.
- Be prepared to try to negotiate your doctor bills, hospital bills and even credit card bills. If you aren't comfortable doing it yourself, or think you might be too sick to, ask for help from a friend, family member, or financial professional.
- Ask if the doctor or hospital offers interest-free installment payment plans.
- Check the fine print on your auto loan, mortgage, and credit cards to see if they came with any kind of disability insurance. Often people have this coverage and are not aware of it.
- Look into nonprofit organizations that help people facing a devastating illness by assisting with financial matters, applying for Medicaid and Social Security, negotiating medical fees, etc. (The book has an appendix with information on these organizations.)
- Make sure your legal documents are in order: will, medical power of attorney, health-care proxy, and an advance directive.
Taking care of this business is hard. You are forced to imagine your death and its impact on your friends and family. But as painful as it is to think about this and take these actions, these legal protections are acts of generosity. They lift the burden of difficult decisions from those you love.
These suggestions are just a beginning. What would you do? Please share your suggestions and stories here so others can benefit. I know several other bloggers may also be posting about this topic, and I'll update this post with links to the discussion there too:
Get Rich Slowly: JD has shared Travelin' Man's own specific questions about his financial situation and decision-making.
Blogging My Way Out of Debt has shared her own story of facing cancer surgery without insurance.
As I've mentioned before, any ad proceeds from this site are donated to various charities. I am a bit backlogged on actually making my donations, so any ad income earned from March 2007 through the end of July will be donated to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Thank you to Travelin' Man for inspiring this post.