I know that we were in the middle of a discussion on credit, but we are going to put a pause on that momentarily and come back to that in a few. The best lessons are the life lessons and we’ve had quite a few of those lately, so I thought I’d spend a few posts on our latest adventures. This week’s adventure is dealing with medical expenses.
What to Do When Your Kid Gets Hit in the Face by a Baseball
AKA Six Ways to Save Money on Medical Expenses
A couple of days ago H.T. was at the first baseball practice for fall ball and got hit in the face. In his defense, they weren’t playing at the time. The coach was talking to them, and one of the kids decided to throw a ball. I have no idea why, but if you are a parent of a teen, you know they often don’t think rationally. There was no bleeding and no crying because, as we know, there is no crying in baseball. Actually, it’s because he is one tough cookie; I probably would have been crying. The next morning it was still swollen and just looked a little wonky. Plus, he said it still really hurts. My gut tells me he is probably ok, but I’ve been that parent who told a kid before that they were ok, and then it turned out that they were really sick. Plus it is his face. Though he doesn’t care now, he might when it comes time for senior pics.
I called his doctor’s office. They said we don’t have an x-ray machine; take him to the ER. Well, that seemed like an expensive way to do it. So I texted my gang of girlfriends and asked them where can I get an x-ray besides the ER. They gave me an option that I had totally not thought of – an imaging center. I called the center, but they said that they needed an order from the doctor. After several phone calls back and forth with his doctor’s office, they decided that they wanted to see him after all before they sent in the order. Long story short, we saw the doctor, she said yes take him to get the x-ray. As I write this, I am waiting for to hear back with the results.
If you don’t have traditional insurance this kind of stuff can be expensive. Here’s some ways that we save money.
- If you are a person of faith, look into a health sharing ministry. It’s not insurance, but it is a group of Christians who help pay each other’s medical bills. We have been using Samaritan Ministries for twenty years and have loved it. Every month we get a statement telling us who to send money to and what it is for. It’s cool knowing exactly how your money is helping another family. We do have to pay the first $400 of each incident, but it still works out to way cheaper for us. Even when Keith transitioned from contracting to a regular W-2, we still stayed with Samaritan because we love knowing where our money is going, and it costs us less than traditional insurance even with paying the smaller medical expenses ourselves.
- Sign up for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Spending Account (HSA), if possible. Both of these accounts use pretax income for eligible medical expenses. We always contribute the max that we can through our FSA. A self-employed person cannot have an FSA, but they can set up an HSA if they have a high-deductible plan. Unlike an FSA which has to be used up every year, an HSA can be used as a long-term investment strategy and can build some significant wealth because as you get older you can withdraw money for things besides medical expenses.
- Don’t just do what you are told. If I had listened to the first person that I had called at the doctor’s office, I would have gone to the emergency room, and the bill would have been significantly higher. Call around because different places charge different amounts for the exact same procedure.
- Take advantage of the hive mind. When I am faced with decisions about what to do or where to go, I I often ask my friends for their input. There’s a good chance someone in your circle has the answer to what you need. If you don’t have a friend group, join a local Facebook or NextDoor group.
- Ask for discounts. Many times you can get a discount just by asking, especially if you are a self-pay patient. When baseball boy was born, I asked for a discount and they told us that they would knock thousands off if we paid that week. I don’t remember the exact details, but I think it was like a forty percent discount.
- Use GoodRx to get prescriptions. I used to pay full price for prescriptions. I had no idea about the magical GoodRx card. I still don’t know how it works. You can get a GoodRx card for free, and if you just ask the pharmacy to use the GoodRx card your bill magically drops. One of our prescriptions was $150 a month and putting it on the card makes it around $20. After one of our kids had a bad allergic reaction to amoxicillin the ER doctor prescribed an EpiPen. The pharmacy told us it was going to be around $500, when I asked them how much it would be with GoodRx, the price dropped by like $400. We decided to not even get the EpiPen and just stick with the logical path of avoiding all penicillins. (See #3.) The GoodRx concept is still an enigma to me. If it’s free and all I have to do is mention it, then why don’t you just give the lower price to everyone? I try not to think about all the money that I spent before I became enlightened.
I told my kids that I have managed to be a parent for twenty-five years and not have any broken bones. Wait, that might not be entirely true. I have gone twenty-five years and not had any children break any bones. I probably broke my ribs during that one scaffold incident, and Keith thinks he broke a toe. But all the kids are intact. That’s gotta be some kind of parenting record. Twenty-five years, five kids, no broken bones. Let’s pray that my streak keeps going!