Thank Goodness for Health Insurance!

So, it’s been about two and half weeks since my seizures, and if you have had any encounters with the modern medical establishment, you know what’s coming next: bill time! Yes, medical treatment isn’t cheap, so I was expecting some of this. Luckily, I do have health insurance, so it shouldn’t be that bad, right?

Imagine my surprise (and shock), then, when I received a bill for part of my treatment that was nearly one thousand dollars. What was that for, you ask? The room where I spent the night? The fees for the nurses who took care of me? The cost of that hospital food that everyone loves to hate (but really, was nowhere near as bad as most people make out)?

No, actually, this particular bill was for the trip there, a less than two mile drive from my school to the hospital. Now, I certainly appreciate the effort of the ambulance driver and the other paramedic who accompanied him and helped take care of me, but that’s a pretty hefty fee for such a short trip (to say nothing of how much it is for a man whose entire gross income last year barely cleared $16,000, even with this very blog adding to his profits).

I have nothing but respect for ambulances and their workers, but it is a bit much...

Luckily for my bank account (and hopes of getting out of debt anytime soon), this was done without going through my health insurance. I spent some time this weekend rounding up my health insurance information, and sending it out. Of course, that’s no guarantee that my insurance will cover the full cost; I recently paid a few hundred bucks to pay for an instrumental session with my general practitioner, even with my insurance coverage.

The Lessons

What have I learned from these bills and this general experience? Well, it wouldn’t be much of a blog entry if I didn’t try to spend some of this time educating my readers, so here are some lessons I’ve been learning from this whole experience (beyond the fact that I have apparently inherited my grandmother’s tendency toward seizures):

-Always Have Comprehensive Health Insurance: It’s easy to think to yourself, “I’m young, I’m healthy, and as far as I know, there are no major diseases I could have inherited; why should I bother with health insurance?” Well, here’s the thing: stuff happens (if we are using a more polite phrase). Even if you don’t have family issues (and it can be easy to miss them, as I could tell you), things happen, from car accidents to diseases, which you need to be prepared for. Short of saving a tremendous reserve for possible health issues, there’s little you can do besides having health insurance, and making sure it covers all your possible needs.

-Double-Check Your (Medical) Bills: If you have an incident, you’re going to find yourself with more than a few bills in the next few weeks. It’ll be tempting to just write a check and call it good; after all, these bills are related to a rather unpleasant part of your life, one you’d just as soon put behind you. But with hospital bills, as with any bills, mistakes can be made, and given the often high cost of medical treatment, these mistakes can be costly. To save yourself money (and the hassle of having to deal with these issues in the future), be sure to check, double check, and triple check your bills for any errors.

-Keep An Emergency Fund Handy: Alright, I knew this one well before this incident, although the amount of money I’ve had to pay just for the preliminary care is a nice reminder. (I’m a bit scared to see what the final bills will be…) This sort of expense is what I would say falls under the category of ‘buffer’ funds; you want to have some money that can serve as a buffer between your expenses and your savings and investments, should such high, short-term costs come along. If anything, this is probably a good time to think about increasing how much I have in my buffer funds.

There you have it, some of the lessons I’ve learned from what has been a pretty rough month. Have you had any sort of medical trouble lately? If so, have you learned anything from the experience, either about what you should do to prepare, or simply about yourself?

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