Even if you think you’re well-off and have health insurance, many of us are one major diagnosis away from the slippery slope to medical bankruptcy. If you don’t believe us, today, we’re sending you to a great article in (of all things!) FoxBusiness.com:
Ellen Baker estimates that her treatments for breast cancer, including chemotherapy, mastectomy and reconstructive surgery cost about $100,000, and her share after insurance was about $20,000. In addition, she shelled out $200 a week for “complimentary things, like acupuncture, hypnosis and Reiki, energy healing,” which helped get her through the ordeal.
But what really proved costly was what she called the collateral damage of breast cancer — divorce. “My husband of 22 years left after my last surgery,” says Baker, whose two daughters were teenagers at the time. “I wasn’t working and suddenly my husband’s $300,000 salary was gone. I faced foreclosure on our home and had cars repossessed. It’s because I contacted my senator, governor and others that I was able to save the house,” says Baker.
Five years later, she has not recovered financially. “I’m uninsurable now, and I have until July of next year to use COBRA from my husband’s company. COBRA cost me $1,000 a month, so along with my out-of-pocket expenses, health care costs me about $23,000 a year,” says Baker who sees an oncologist every three months.
Baker, an executive coach, still needs two more surgeries to complete the breast reconstruction process, but because doctors want $12,000 to $20,000 up front — which she would have to pay, then wait to get reimbursed from the insurance company — she continues to postpone them. She remains positive though. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” she says. “Every day is a gift. I’m starting my life over at 59.”
Ellen Baker was lucky to be able to save her house. A national study by Harvard and Ohio University, published in The American Journal of Medicine, showed that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is due to unpaid medical bills. Over 60% of all 2007 bankruptcy filings were connected to unaffordable medical and hospital expenses. Frighteningly, this is not just the uninsured. Over 75% of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance coverage. The average unpaid debt of those filing for medical bankruptcy with health insurance was $17,749, whereas it was $26,971 for those without coverage. In many cases, high deductibles or pre-existing conditions force people to take on debt to cover the costs of treatment which their insurance will not.
Are you prepared for a medical emergency like breast cancer? Tell us about it!
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