MML Jasmin: On not incurring more debt

Written by
Jasmin Snyder
MML- Jasmin

In my initial 'nice to meet you' post I mentioned two surgeries I need to have. Later, a friend told me that made me sound like I have some majorly weird medical problems. Alright fine. It's not as weird as it sounds though, so just so you don't think it's something worse, I'll tell you. I have very poor circulation in my legs and I need to have a major vein shut down in each leg to encourage circulation in the healthy veins. That's not so weird is it? Well, I guess I'll never know. Anyway, these two procedures are medically necessary, but also somewhat optional at this stage - meaning, my insurance will pay for them, but I won't die if I don't get them done tomorrow. Herein lies my dilemma. Do I have the surgeries and incur $7,000 of medical debt or do I put it off until I can afford to pay for them with cash?

Let me go backwards a bit and explain where the $7,000 figure came from. Like many Americans I pay several hundred dollars a month ($237 to be exact) to get mediocre healthcare coverage (I purchase my own coverage outside of work). I'm not complaining though. I spent a total of 20 years uninsured, so I'm grateful for any coverage. Reality is though, being covered only shelters me from catastrophic expenses. I still have to shell out several thousand dollars if I need care. For example, when I fell and had to get the nerve in my hand reattached (I'll give you a moment to recover from the chills) I paid just under $10,000 out of pocket over a period of 13 months. My deductible was $5,000 and then I had to pay 30% of the remaining cost. Of course, when I was going in for surgery I didn't know any of this. The surgery was very necessary and happened fast. I figured out the money situation afterwards.

This time is different though. My insurance is the same, but the medical situation is different. This time I called my doctor, got all the codes of the procedures, and then called the hospital to figure out how much each of those codes would cost. It took a while, but when I got off the phone I knew exactly how much having both surgeries would cost. The grand total before insurance? $16,000. Womp womp. I've already paid $1,000 of my deductible this year though, plus I have a $1,000 credit for some reason, meaning I would only owe $3,000 of $5,000 my deductible. But I would still have to pay 30% of the remaining total, which would be about $3,300. My total cost to have both surgeries this year would be $6,300 (if everything went as planned of course).

I'll be real with you though, I don't have $6,300 in cash. I have $3,000 in an emergency fund and every other cent I have is going to pay off my little car payment which is now at $6,281.56. The nice thing about medical debt is you can set up a payment plan, which if I spread the amount out over 12 months would be about $523.46 a month. I could pay that plus my little car payment of $153.85 for a year. No problem. Yet, the year would end and I would still have a car payment. I'm not really interested in setting my financial life back so far.

So I've decided not to have the surgeries this year. The only bad part is the $1,000 I already put into the pre-op procedures. When I do choose to move forward with the surgeries, I'll have to pay this $1,000 again. In the long run though this is a minor consequence. For now, I'll continue to focus on paying off my car payment cent by cent. My weirdo medical problem can wait another year.

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