surprise attack.

28 06 2011


a few months ago (at the big thaw actually), i had a heinous allergic reaction that caused my feet and legs to be covered in enormous, swollen, itchy hives (see inset). it was a pretty sexy look, but i figured i’d take  a brief jaunt to the emergency room, just in case.

unfortunately, my hives went away while i was sitting on the gurney in my very flattering hospital johnny. actually, one of the hot doctors (for some reason the maine med ER docs are always super sexy) actually uttered the phrase “wow, i’m watching the hives disappear in front of my eyes”. at which point like 3 more doctors came in, asked me all the same questions, and then they told me to go home and take a benadryl.

helpful.

about a month later, i was pleasantly surprised to get a bill from maine med for a mere $0 for my visit. way to go insurance!

FALSE ALARM.

friday, i got a replacement bill for $362.

fuck.

as you might remember, i was just scraping by last month. and i made it work. i ate dinner at home and had $3 beers! i didn’t have to dip into my saving’s account to pay my bills! but things are still tight. i just can’t afford a big chunk of change like that right now and have any chance of catching up with my finances.

i have a feeling that these kinds of bills (unexpected expenses!) are the kinds of bills that really get people in trouble.  i have certainly been more than guilty of putting off paying a medical bill for as long as i possibly can (usually until they send me the letter telling me it’s about to go into collections), even when it’s only like $8. but unlike that situation, this isn’t the kind of circumstance where i can pay it off indiana jones style at the last minute. i don’t have $362 extra dollars now, and i probably won’t anytime soon.

so what now?

it’s time to put on my grovelling pants, and ask for a payment plan.

right now, money is tight for most people. and the pride of not wanting to admit that you can’t pay your bills… or the denial of thinking that the next bill payment is lurking right around the corner are not helping anyone. i had a friend who recently hit a really really rough financial patch (repo man rough), but actually made it through with her house, car, and dignity intact (and without having to file for bankruptcy), because she did the thing that nobody seems to do:

she talked to her creditors.

and i don’t mean telling them that “the check was in the mail”, she actually told them what was happening. she paid them when she could, and when they called to shake her down, the actually picked up the phone and had a real conversation (without swearing, or fist shaking, or anything!). i know more than a few people who just don’t answer their phone anymore… those are the people in real trouble.

the truth of the matter is that the bank doesn’t want your house, and the auto dealership doesn’t want your car back. they all just want you to pay your goddamn bill. and if you call them and tell them that they’re struggling right up front, more often than not, they will help you out. student loans are especially good for this sort of thing, and i have found that you can defer payment on those little babies almost indefinitely if you really are too broke to pay. but if you don’t talk to them and get behind… *BAM*, they’re garnishing your paycheck, foreclosing on your house, or sending out the muscle to take your car in the night.

my point being, when it comes to money matters, as painful and embarrassing it might be to ask for it… SACK UP AND ASK FOR HELP! pay whatever you can when you can, ask for a payment plan, and when/if you get collection calls, answer them.  as i said, i’ll be going the payment plan option for this monster medical bill. though it might take me 3-6 months to actually pay it off, the hospital won’t send it to collections, and my pristine FICO (777 at last check) will remain undinged. success!

p.s. although the hospital was able to do jack for me (other than stress me out and cost me some money), i would eventually ascertain that i am allergic to the COLD. apparently, when my skin drops below a certain temperature… HIVE CITY. and then when it warms back up, everything is cool again.  and yeah, i’ve lived in maine all my life, so this is exciting and new. gonna be a long winter…

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15 responses

28 06 2011
imogenflowers

I really don’t understand how your bill is so high. How much was the visit before insurance kicked in?!?

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

me either! they didn’t do ANYTHING! my insurance my not have covered it at all… i have a high deductible plan. i thought i got 1 emergency visit, but i guess not. boo!

28 06 2011
Cyndel

I recently found out I’m allergic to chlorine (I think…clearly I’m not a doctor). I spent many years on a swim team and all last summer at my apartment building’s pool. This year? I break out in hives for about 30 minutes after I swim. The few that don’t go away in that time, go away after I shower. I thought it might be the sunscreen I use, but I don’t get hives if I use it just for hiking or something. I changed just in case and it still only happens when I swim.

You’re right about just calling! Especially with student loans, they are usually more than happy to help.

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

allergic to chlorine- how weird! i sometimes get them when i’m in salt water. frankly, i get them all the time. my life is basically ruled by hives. on the upside, i’m really good at being itchy.

28 06 2011
Blackgirlinmaine

I agree with most of what you said here, though there is a point that sometimes creditors won’t work with you or you simply owe too much money. I have blogged openly about the fact I am filing bankruptcy, for the past 4 years I have been trying to pay off over $200,000 in debt and it just reached the point I can’t do it and actually provide for my family. In my case I did start out talking with my creditors (my Mom was a bill collector so over the years O learned how to deal with them) but as you said in this post often times its the little things that trip you up. I have had little to no safety net and this year after facing a few obstacles realized that for me my desire to pay off my debt was making life worse since not having any savings even for the small things is bad.

That said, for where you are call the hospital and make an arrangement, on small bills especially medical ones hospitals work with you. I also know for fact that the student loan folks often work with people as well.

Sorry about that bill, I always keep benadryl on hand for when hives attack.

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

agreed that there are certainly situations where answering creditor calls won’t save the day. there are a lot of really good people out there who end up filing for bankruptcy for a variety of reasons. sometimes, it really is just impossible to catch up. i had a safety net for the first time in my life last year, but then i had to buy a new roof. it’s been nearly impossible for me to get back to where i was. i feel like the credit card debt that i amassed in my early 20s will be haunting me forever. i guess what i’m saying is that i feel your pain.

29 06 2011
amanda jennifer

Obviously I have no idea what your situation is, other than “broke” but I was recently able to absolve my emergency room bill because I make under a certain amount of money and have no insurance.

There was also just a story on This American Life about a guy who got hit with a 45k bill for his appendicitis and subsequent seven day hospital stay. The hospital is letting him make monthly payments of $20, so he’ll finish paying his bill if he lives to be 600.

The good thing about medical bills is that they don’t (usually) affect your credit score.

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

this might be your next broke207 assignment after your food stamps piece 😀 i lived without health insurance for a long time, and my allergy meds (that i need to stay alive) cost $152 a month. sadly, i always made slightly too much money to qualify for any sort of assistance. which, might i add, is not even close to enough to pay $152 a month for 30 pills.

p.s. the concept of saving fore retirement makes my insides shrivel with guilt and anxiety. did you start a 401K or something? was it hard?

29 06 2011
amanda jennifer

Oh, and I should probably pass along the things that I recently learned in my personal finance class.

1) Set financial goals for yourself, short term, intermediate, and long term (then devise a plan to reach those goals.)

2) It’s never too early to start saving for retirement.

29 06 2011
chris

being a self-employed person, my health insurance, that i can barely afford to pay has a $5,000. per person deductible. the husband had to get an MRI last month, which of course is subject to deductible. the MRI cost $2,000, so i just called the hospital and told them i could afford $100 a month, which is a lie, i just don’t want to lay out all that money at once, and they don’t charge interest. problem solved.

my emergency room co-pay is $150. i wouldn’t go there unless it was a life and death situation, seriously!

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

i have crappy health insurance with a $3,000 deductible. so far, i’ve only ever had to pay a few hundred at a time, but i worry about what would happen if i had a big emergency (like an MRI) or something. we should just marry canadians and get in on that government subsidized health care business. but for now, i’m definitely telling them that i can afford to pay less that i actually can.

29 06 2011
Bobbi

uhh….I went to the emergency room at Mercy and had xrays on my foot and it was over $700. I also had an MRI in November at Midcoast Hospital and it was also around 700. I am still paying both of them off, however Mercy is almost paid off, due to the fact that I got a collections letter after being a week or two late on my monthly payment and then ponied up 200 to make them happy again. I hate these surprise bills. I think medical bills are often what brings people into bankruptcy situations. Maybe not all the time, but at least some of the time? Or so I’ve heard? Also, I wish I had known about the hot doctors at Maine Med, because the people at the Mercy ER not so hot and also not so nice. OH HEY IT”S A REALLY GOOD IDEA FOR YOU TO PINCH MY TOE THAT I AM CONVINCED IS BROKEN. not.

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

medical bills are squirrely. whether you have insurance or not, nobody gives you any remote indication of how much things are going to cost up front. had i known that a single ER visit would cost me $300, i probably would have gone home, taken some benadryl, and waited it out. i certainly will next time. i wish that the hospital was like mcdonald’s- with a big menu board up front with prices.

1 07 2011
Cindy

I’ve found that for hospital bills, if you send in ANY amount – even $20, they’ll just happily keep billing you, without threats of collections.

Definitely, though, we shouldn’t be embarrassed about calling and asking to make payments.

4 07 2011
bessmarvin

yeah, i’m really torn between wanting to get it over with… and not having the payments make any real impact on my financial picture. i’m thinking $50 a month? i wish that hospital bills were like parking tickets, where you get one freebie every six months.

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