Hopefully, the majority of us will live healthy, fulfilling lives and die well into our old age. Since the average age of death in the United States is 78, most of us are living a long life.
But are you prepared for the unexpected? Are you prepared for a health crisis?
If you’re not, you’re in good company. The majority of Americans are not prepared.
When The Unthinkable Happens
My daughters’ therapist, Jennifer, is currently going through a crisis. Her husband had a stroke and because it occurred in his brain stem, he now is suffering from Locked In Syndrome. Before this happened, I had never even heard of the condition. Basically, he is mentally alert and aware, but the only thing he can move in his body are his eyes. He is literally locked in, or trapped, in his body.
He spent 50 days in intensive care before being transferred to a very well renowned institute specializing in Locked In Syndrome. He is now at the facility, half way across the country.
Meanwhile, Jennifer has not been at work for two months. She’s now returned to work, but she has to juggle work and flying across the country regularly to see her husband and encourage him.
They had been a two income family, but now, that has obviously changed. Jennifer has put up a Go Fund Me page for donations because of the enormous expenses involved.
How To Prepare For A Medical Crisis
Luckily, situations this extreme are rare, but medical crises happen frequently. My friend’s husband broke his leg at work. Two surgeries and 10 months later, he finally returned to work. These types of situations are much more common.
The best thing you can do is try to prepare yourself financially for such a crisis. There are a number of steps you can take:
- If you’re a one income family, live below your means. Many of us are used to setting aside money to pay the bills, and then we spend the rest. This behavior should change. As hard as this is to do, putting away some money is imperative. The stronger your emergency fund, the better you’ll be able to weather medical emergencies.
- If you’re a two-income family, try to live on one income. If something happens to one of you and that income is gone, you’ll be in a better financial position because you’re already used to living on one income.
- Get disability insurance. Disability insurance can be pricey, especially if you buy it privately. Most employers do offer it, though. Even though we’re all optimistic that we won’t need it, having disability insurance can make the difference between bankruptcy and surviving financially if you or your spouse have a medical emergency.
- Purchase health insurance. Having health insurance can be key when it comes to paying the high cost of a hospitalization. Make sure you have it.
- If you have debt, consider getting insurance. My dad got sick, was diagnosed with cancer, and died, all during a six month period. My parents were deeply in credit card debt, but they had chosen to pay extra for credit card insurance. If one of them died or was disabled, the credit cards would be paid off in full. If you can’t make your credit card payments without the bread winner’s income, consider getting this type of insurance, especially if you have a small emergency fund.
Sometimes life just throws you a huge challenge, as Jennifer and her husband are experiencing. I don’t know the details of their financial situation, but I hope that they were living below their means and that her husband had disability insurance. Even with those stopgap measures in place, this situation will be challenging to recover from, both from a medical and financial perspective.
Have you experienced a medical emergency? Did you take the right measures beforehand, or were you caught off guard and struggled financially?
Peter Anderson says
I think most people, myself included, would like to think that we’ll never have a major health crisis, an accident, or anything else. The problem is that most of us are going to have a negative major event in any given 10 year period, so we need to plan for it.
A few years ago my wife was a healthy 27 year old woman, and in an instant she had a life threatening blood clot that put her in the hospital for close to a month. We never saw it coming. Thankfully we had good health insurance at the time, so our $250,000 in medical bills were paid for by our insurance company – after we paid out $2500 in deductibles.
Plan ahead for the worst, hope for the best!
Locked In Syndrome sounds horrendous, I can’t imagine what he is going through, being completely trapped with his thoughts and nothing else.
I cannot relate to the health care costs, though we do have to pay for some things in Canada, but the rest of your points are bang on. We try to live on half of our household income, so that we can sock away the rest. It puts us further ahead in life and also ensures that we would be just fine if we were to lose one income.
Mrs. Frugalwoods says
It’s terrifying how much a health crises–or even a mini-crisis (like a sprained ankle)–costs. I think having an emergency fund and health insurance should be top priorities, whether you’re in debt or not. It can be hard to put so much money towards unknowns, but it’s wise to prepare yourself.