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Surviving the Costs of Sickness

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Personal Finance instructor. Advisor to the penny-saver and frugal-minded friends.


Long-term sickness can happen suddenly or progress over time. A few types of long-term illness that inevitably incapacitate individuals include severe autism, glaucoma, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancers and epilepsy, among others. [1] As such diseases worsen over time, costs for medical care surge. Patients who are intent on possible recovery trust that full care will be provided by hospitals and healthcare centers regardless of the costs.

Healthcare Institutions and Insurance Coverage

Hospitals and healthcare centers are usually compliant when providing services, focusing first on care and subsequently on costs. However, healthcare organizations understand the importance of receiving payment for expensive services rendered. Primary business costs for healthcare services include paying the salaries of physicians, surgeons, nurses and administrative staff, purchasing drugs, purchasing and maintaining medical equipment, purchasing medical supplies, maintaining the medical building, property, office and workspaces, and satisfying utility, insurance and administrative costs.[2] Currently, business costs for healthcare organizations remain expensive, increasing significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patients with long-term illness depend on health insurance to cover increasing medical costs over time. Health insurance plans permit members (customers) to pay a premium amount per month for specified healthcare related costs throughout the year. Various types of health insurance plans are available in the US, such as exclusive provider organization plans (EPO), point-of-service plans (POS), fee-for-service plans (FFS), health maintenance organization plans (HMO), preferred provider organization plans (PPO), health savings accounts (HSA), the Affordable Care Act plans (ACA), healthcare sharing plans, COBRA, Medicaid government assistance and Medicare senior government assistance.[3, 4, 5, 6] Health insurance plans are categorized from high-quality/high-cost plans (platinum plans) to lower-quality/lower-cost plans (bronze plans). The Affordable Care Act mandates insurance coverage for all citizens nationwide, providing inexpensive health insurance plan options for low-income families. Yet still, health insurance plans may not cover all medical costs billed by hospitals or healthcare centers. At times, patients may be required to pay medical costs out-of-pocket. Although Medicaid and Medicare usually satisfy all associated bills of low-income, unemployed or retired citizens, this government assistance program - as other health insurance plans - do not cover all medical costs.

Additional Costs for Patients with Long-Term Illness

Aside from paying off extraneous medical costs, patients or their families must consider how to satisfy other patient-related costs while unemployed during long-term care. Such costs include covering the patient’s rent and utilities, paying the patient’s vehicle insurance and lease and caring for the patient’s children or pets. [7] While the patient’s financial savings may be withdrawn to pay off these reoccurring bills, lower-income patients may not have this option available to them. Financial support from family or friends may be limited or likewise non-existent. Admitted or incapacitated long-term patients without the option to draw on savings to cover non-medical costs quickly spiral into financial destitution and impoverishment. However, preventative measures to circumvent this predicament exist

Reducing Additional Costs of Long-Term Illness

Long-term patients (or their families) must plan effectively for overall long-term care. The patient can start by fully comprehending what is covered by his or her health insurance plan. For example, more expensive, platinum health insurance plans may provide rental assistance, childcare reimbursement and free transportation during long-term patient care. Therefore, rental costs are reduced, childcare provided by a licensed vendor is reimbursed and transportation to and fro for essentials is covered by the health insurance plan.

Additional measures patients can apply to mitigate increased costs during long-term illness include applying for government assistance (i.e., SNAP [8], food centers, utility discounts, free cell phone services, etc.). Long-term patients who are not admitted may arrange to stay with a family member or friend with the intent to pay rental fees upon recovery. Admitted, long-term patients should move personal items to a storage unit, while houses are rented out for additional income. Vehicles may be temporarily unregistered and returned to leasing companies. Owned vehicles can likewise be placed in storage. Children or pets of the patient needing long-term care may temporarily house with close family members or friends. Local support groups, community centers, libraries, religious houses of worship and government agencies all provide resources for cost reduction or relief during long-term illness.

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Planning for long-term illness help patients survive the cost of sickness, which can be quite costly. Opportunities to reduce surging medical bills and other patient expenses while fully disabled are abundant. Support throughout long-term illness is available.



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