When we started seeking help for our daughter we really had no idea if we could afford it. We had no extra room in our budget and we had no idea what we were stepping into. The good and bad part about starting to get help for your child is that it can often take months to get into children’s specialists. During the waiting time, you actually have time to start looking at the financial side of special needs.
Having a financial plan for all of our daughter’s medical needs is part of what has helped us to be able to provide her with the care that she has needed. We aren’t done yet, and every year I go through this planning process accessing our needs. It’s overwhelming some days but most days I’m grateful we can get her the necessary care.
Know your insurance. The best thing you can do is to call your insurance company and ask them about coverage. Find out how much an office visit to see specialists or psychologists are and ask about therapy coverage for Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Physical Therapy. Along, with any other specialists that you are being referred to. Make sure the facility that you are wanting to go to is covered by your insurance. Some therapy places are private practice and are not covered by insurance.
Estimate your costs. After speaking with your insurance company you can also ask your health facility to give you an estimate on the cost per visit. You will need to then apply your insurance coverage to figure out what your actual costs will be.
Look at your budget. If you are new to budgeting I recommend starting with a few resources (The Budget Mama, Dave Ramsey) to get you started. If you are a budget pro, then you know what you need to do. Find any areas where you can cut back or increase your income. When we were looking at our monthly costs being more than we could fit in our budget and we were unwilling to make any cuts we made the decision to increase our income. At the time, I was a stay at home mom so I actually started with a direct sales company and my monthly sales goal was to cover our therapy expenses. That sales goal is what kept me motivated every month and by the time we finally got billed, I had a stockpile to cover the bill.
Flex Plans. If your employer offers a flex spending plan, don’t forget about using this to cover your child’s medical expenses. This can also help you save money on taxes.
Use extra money. You might be surprised that you may be able to find extra money in your already tight budget. My husband gets paid every other week, so twice a year he gets an “extra” check a month. We take out money for our fixed expenses and living expenses and use the “extra” in that month for medical expenses. I also save any cash as “extra” that we get in our hands or from selling our used items. We also save our money from taxes as “extra” money. My husband’s end of the year bonus is also considered “extra.”
Don’t push them to send the bill. I know that sounds funny, but I was always more worried about hurrying them up so I could pay a bill then they were for me to a bill. I would call the hospital and ask about when our bill was coming and if they had billed us yet. That was really out of my control and I should have let it go. And here’s why I recommend it. The hospital where we received some Occupational Therapy was actually so behind in billing that by the time they billed us we got a couple of months for free. What I didn’t know was that if they don’t bill us within a certain amount of time they have to cover the cost of it completely.
Medical Debt. This is something that I go back and forth on. I’m not the type of person who is comfortable with debt. I’m not suggesting that you get into debt that is more than you can handle but in our case we knew how to pay off debt, we could figure out the finances. But, we didn’t know how to help our daughter. We desperately needed help, we chose to get the help we needed and to make it work financially even if it took us a few years to pay for it. So if that is where you are too, remember to breathe. Make a plan and stick to it.
This our third year of navigating paying for medical expenses and it somehow has gotten easier. When you get through the initial shock of diagnosis and getting to therapy appointments, paying for it seems like the last thing on your mind. Having a plan for the extra medical expenses helps me find peace in the midst of our chaotic life. The last thing I should be worrying about is the finances, but sometimes it’s the hardest one to let go of.