Sense & Centsibility Blog
How to Prepare for Unexpected Medical Costs
It’s August in northern Minnesota and we’ve experienced some steamy weather. It’s the perfect breeding ground for insects, whether they fly or crawl. While I love summer, I long for September when most insects disappear after a good hard frost. It just makes being outside much more pleasant! For example, my partner and I were riding horses the early morning of July 4th. We were trying to beat the heat and the horseflies that torment all of us with nasty, stinging bites. A strong breeze and fly spray can help but won’t solve the problem. Jake, our newest horse, is a seasoned trail mount. His breed is a Tennessee Walker, and he does a funny little pivot where he can fully change direction instantly. Tennessee Walkers were originally bred to carry riders and pull wagons across the hill country of Tennessee quickly, efficiently, and comfortably (so the story goes). So, what does all this have to do with unexpected medical costs? While I was busy adjusting the saddle on my horse, I heard Kim loudly call out “Jake!” When I looked up to see what was going on, Kim was kneeling on the ground in a fetal position, rocking back and forth. Jake had done his fancy little pivot trying to evade the horseflies which sent Kim sailing over his head. Kim had landed on the right side of her back but scurried sideways to avoid Jake’s hooves. We both wear helmets and fortunately, Kim’s helmet and head were still intact. We took inventory of each moving part and Kim seemed to be okay. It was not until the second night that Kim was gripped by excruciating pain and was unable to sleep or lay on her back. A trip to Urgent Care the next morning revealed at least 1 broken rib and lots of inflammation. The doctor ordered rest and pain medication. Since Kim was laid up, this meant lots of extra work for me to keep up with home and farm chores. I’m not really complaining; I was simply exhausted from my busy schedule. Kim is still recovering, but doing much better and helping around the house. Even more important, Kim’s accident did not devastate our finances. Fortunately, Kim works for a company that offers short-term disability that pays 100% of wages after taking 40 hours of PTO (paid time off). Kim’s company also offers a Health Savings Account (HSA) that will cover all the out of pocket medical costs. We were truly blessed in so many ways around this accident! But it also helps that Kim had not used all her PTO and made regular contributions to her HSA. While time off work has done wonders for Kim’s recovery, for some folks this could mean no paycheck and a pile of unpaid medical bills. So, how can you plan for medical costs (and lost work income) that arise unexpectedly?