Addressing My Biggest Fear: Financial Ruin Via Medical Bills

I am an unusually healthy person and only go to the doctor for annual checkups. I rarely get sick and I have a high pan tolerance so when I do get sick or injured (think: The Haunted House Incident), I often muscle through it. It’s a source of pride for me if you can’t tell. This makes me a perfect candidate for a High Deductible Health Plan.

My husband however is not so lucky. He has a medical condition that has been ignored for years: a dangerously low heart rate. Recently, he failed a physical because of it. His heart was beating a mere 32 beats per minute, and he was advised that he is at Stage 2 of having a heart attack. Stage 3 is heart attack and possible death. He went from getting a standard physical for an exciting new opportunity to a scary reality check. We cannot ignore this anymore.

I dealt with this news by becoming angry which is my usual method of adjusting to a stressful situation: Anger, Defeat, Acceptance, and then eventually Planning.

To be completely honest, this has always been my worst fear since starting out becoming financially secure, attaining good credit, and buying a home.

I am reading a book called The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman, and she advised us to address what we are afraid of. I am afraid I’m going to lose everything. The one thing I see that could wipe us out is a medical emergency resulting in medical bills we can’t afford, debt, collections, law suits,  bad credit, financial ruin, AH!

My husband and I ran numbers a few years and found that we were both better off paying for our insurance individually. Since I enjoy good health, I have been part of a HDHP for a couple of years now. In 2017, I contributed $500 to my Health Savings Account in order to get a maximum $250 match from my employer. I used the savings for medical, dental, and vision bills for my family, and any bills above the $750, I contributed after tax dollars and deducted that from our income at tax time.

Even though I am the only person covered on my plan, I am still able to pay for bills for my spouse and my dependents.

Knowing all of this, and having this medical scare for my husband brought out the planner in me.

I have mentioned before that every debt free journey is going to be personal because we are dealing with personal finance. This is another way that I am tailoring our debt free journey to our specific needs. A medical emergency scares the living daylights out of me. I don’t want to hide anymore. I don’t want my husband to go on pretending he is healthy only because his condition hasn’t become serious enough to affect his daily life yet because in reality, eventually it will and waiting will only make it worse.

We are going to do what we can with what is available to us and start preparing for the bills that are coming as he gets his work up done by his cardiologist. I’m going to decrease my take home pay in order to increase my HSA contributions.

I have read that a good rule of thumb to contribute each year to an HSA is the amount of our deductibles. My deductible is $1,750. His is $2,500. Yes, that’s right. My unhealthy husband is in a high deductible plan. We will have to fix that coming up! More about that later.

Since I am the only one covered on my HDHP Plan, the most I can contribute is $3,450 even though our deductibles add up to $4,250.

Now, I know that we could use that $3,450 a year to pay off debt and keep going on our merry way, but like I said this medical issue needs to be addressed and it needs to be worked in to the budget. This is how we are going to do it. Maybe it’s a little wacky, a little doomsday if you will, but it makes me feel worlds better. We will be adding the HSA balance as an asset account in our Statements of Net Worth Updates beginning in March 2018.

Here are some notes from a little research I have done.

HSA Notes

2018 limit is $3,450. After age 55 you can contribute $1,000 catch up.

Only I am covered on my HDHP, but I can pay for medical, dental, and vision bills for my husband and children. Hearing is covered as well.

Unused money rolls over year to year and is able to be invested once your account exceeds $1,000 (I plan to keep the amount of our deductibles as a “cash reserve” before investing in a mutual fund).

If I leave the plan, I still own the money but I can’t contribute any additional funds.

All contributions (matches from employer, gifts, after tax additions, and pretax additions) all count toward the maximum annual contribution.

After age 65, you can withdraw the funds for any reason just like a 401(k).

I am not eligible for an HSA if I have other insurance in addition to my HDHP.

A Happy Ending

Remember that failed physical? Well, the cardiologist declared my husband healthy enough for the opportunity which brought him to the Medical Center for his drug test and physical in the first place!

He has a new job training to be a manager with a competing company. This is a life changing event, so you can bet your bottom dollar I will be pouring over his medical plans and not letting him go in to a HDHP again!

I hope you learned something from our experience and my notes above.

Thanks for reading.




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 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.



February 2017 Net Worth Update

Welcome to our February 2017 Net Worth Update! We are getting closer and closer to having 100% of the bills paid on the last pay day of the month.


As promised, we are seeing an increase in net worth this month! We had some surprise medical bills come up. A LOT of medical bills, so I’ll be making a post about how we plan to deal with that in the next few days. I suppose at that time I’ll have to add those bills to the Statement of Net Worth if we decide to make a payment arrangement on them. If not, we may do a combination of our Tax CD and Emergency Fund to pay them off. But, I digress! On to the breakdown.


The house, man! I have been entering numbers in Excel since I started paying February’s bills on January 27th. The house has been steadily decreasing in value since then. It started off with $500 decrease and now we are at $984! Darn it!! There really isn’t much I can do about it.

At the time of writing this blog, I’m waiting for our handyman to arrive and take measurements of our doors and give us a verdict on whether he thinks they need to be filled and sanded with a new door hole installed, or completely swapped out. I have $350 cash to pay him for the job and I think it’s going to cost about $250 plus the cost of one new door. I think the bathroom door is beyond repair. Note to Self: Claustrophobic dogs are no less claustrophobic when enclosed in a bathroom rather than a kennel. Since we will have about $100 left in the Handyman Labor budget, I think I’m going to ask him to install a new dishwasher because ours has been broken a long time, and it would just make my life so much easier! Some other things I considered asking for repair with this $100:

  • Bathroom vanity and faucet – you guys know how much I hate my bathroom sink. Oh you don’t? Perhaps I should show you sometime. That would be a fun blog post. Small Scale Renovation Goals!
  • New kitchen sink with garbage disposal – Oooh how I long for a garbage disposal. Plus my drains in the kitchen sink are shot. One side of the sink is not functional at all, and the other side ate the drain guard thingy. It’s stuck in there now and broken. #oldhouseproblems My ideal sink would be a 60/40 double sink or maybe even 70/30 if those exist.

Moving on…

The Dodge Dart also went down quite a bit. I’m trying to keep track of what I’m entering in to Kelly Blue Book so I can be sure to get an accurate depreciation each time so I can be sure these fluctuations are actual increases and decreases in value and not just me mistakenly entering in the wrong model and wrong mileage.

Savings is a little higher in recent months than it typically would be when I show our Statement of Net Worth because I have been needing to wait later in the month to make our credit card payment, so you’re seeing the savings we are building up for the next month’s bills.

Our Emergency Fund and our Savings – Tax CD might be leaving soon due to the medical bills I discussed earlier. I have a plan of attack for those, though. Will write more about that in a later blog.

Due to the decrease in our home’s value and the Dodge Dart, our assets decreased in value this month $654. Darn. It. All. But on the good side, other increases in assets offset the loss so that’s a bonus.


This month, only one account went up in value and that’s the Navient account which is to be expected. I know I mentioned that I would start sending extra to this account soon, but until I know 100% what’s going on with the medical bills I’m just not sure what I can do with this.

All in all I think our medical bills before fighting and negotiating are going to be more than $2,500. Scary stuff!! But the love of my life is healthy and that’s what matters most.

So all in all we have an INCREASE in Net Worth (just like I promised) of $1,167!! This is by far the largest increase we have seen in our journey and is much more typical of what we can do every month when we aren’t buying new cars and giving vehicles to our children 🙂

Thank you guys so much for reading and keeping me accountable!

Coming up in March 2017:

  • Stupid, stupid medical bill post. Booo….
  • An Increase in the Liability Account – Home Depot for the purchase of a new interior door and dishwasher on special 0% interest financing