An Emergency for Our Emergency Fund

 

It took us quite a bit of time to come up with our $1,000 emergency fund. Once we had it, it felt like the act of having an emergency fund guarded us against emergencies happening. Murphy’s Law, amirite? Meaning, if we didn’t have money set aside that would be when an emergency would pop up!

On March 8, 2017 Southern Michigan had a wind storm with wind gusts in excess of 60 mph. I came home from work and found this!

Fallen Tree

We were incredibly lucky, because those high winds brought cold air and resulted in numerous power outages that took days to be restored. That is not good news when temperatures were in the teens and twenties. Not only that, but this tree could have done so much damage: to our house, our next door neighbor’s house or their shed, our garage, deck, fence, or either of the garages for the neighbors in the back. Instead, it was caught by another tree! So lucky!

Unfortunately that luck meant that this tree was not able to be claimed under our home insurance policy since it didn’t do any damage to any of the various structures surrounding it. So, it was all on us.

I started calling tree service companies right away, but there was so much storm damage that all of them were really busy! Most didn’t answer the phone, a couple others bid $900 to take this tree down for me, and one company said $500 to remove everything!

And then the owner ignored my calls and texts.

I went with another company that a coworker recommended. He bid $850 but when I said I would think about it, he texted me back and said he would do it all for $800.

I’m really happy to see this tree go, because for one, it was really ugly. There was about 20 feet of tree trunk before the pine branches showed. It dropped really ugly skinny curved pine cones. If it dropped those fat majestic ones we could slather with Elmer’s Glue and glitter we would have had Christmas ornaments for years! I would have loved it! But all we had was ugly wormy looking ones. Also, I couldn’t get grass to grow due to the constant layer of pine needles and shade.

Now we begin the process of rebuilding the Emergency Fund. I felt like we had it for a long time, but when I asked the bank teller he advised that we opened the account in the beginning of October (right around when I started tracking my net worth with you guys)! Let’s hope we have a better streak in the future.

Blindsided by Medical Bills

The medical bills for my husband’s therapeutic phlebotomy started rolling in. I did not expect each visit to be $720 a pop! Insurance reduced the $720 charge to about $600, and then we needed to meet our $1,000 deductible. These blood draws started in December and continued weekly for about 5 weeks. Into the New Year, and into a whole new $1,000 deductible. I could throw up, guys. So far we have about $1,800 in medical bills! We are expecting another $1,350 in bills to come in soon, too for a sleep study and a CT Scan.

My husband is healthy which is the most important thing, they just don’t know why he has elevated red blood cells. All the tests have come back normal!

Luckily, we have our emergency fund of $1,000 and the Savings – Tax CD that I set aside to pay our tax bill, which we won’t need since we got a refund this year. So theoretically we can cover the expense, but it will set us so far back!

Fortunately for me, I heard an amazing podcast by Shannon Lally-Mclay over at Financialy-Blonde.com in which she interviewed Pat Palmer. The episode is called Medical Billing Questions Answered. Using the advice from this show, I learned some actionable steps to work out an arrangement with this bill.

  • Request an itemized bill to look for billing errors
    1. This didn’t help me much. There was hope originally because each of my bills that were originally $720 had a charge of $628 that was listed as “other charges”. ‘Great!’ I thought. ‘Let them explain that!’ The itemized bills came, and the $628 changed from “other” to Therapeutic Phlebotomy. Boo.
  • My second plan was to negotiate a reduction in the bill BUT, I found that my particular hospital has a program called Compassionate Care in which you submit your financial information and if approved, 70-100% of your bills will be forgiven. That will be a God send!

I submitted the application a few weeks ago and we are waiting to hear back regarding it. Now that I know the hospital is willing to forgive up to 100% for charity, I feel much better negotiating our balances!

What Now?

Here are some more steps as I interpreted them:

  1. Ask for a payment plan on the negotiated amount. Medical bills are a 0% interest payment plan! We will not bust the budget if we don’t have to! It doesn’t cost anything to stretch the payments out as long as possible and make it easier on ourselves. However….
  2. We can request a further discount for prompt payment in CASH. Like, today. Right now. I will bring you $500 to make this go away. That’s what the good ol’ Emergency Fund is for! Also, always make sure your negotiation is in writing.
  3. If we cannot get a further discount for prompt payment in cash, we will use our Flex Spending Account to make the payments. If we don’t have enough on my Flex Spending Account to make the monthly payments, I’ll make post tax contributions which we can claim on our Income Tax at the end of the year regardless if we itemize or not. This could mean a further discount of however much our income tax rate is for the year.

Wish me luck in battling these medical bills! Thanks for reading.

 

XOXO
Dolores