Fighting an illness requires mental, emotional, and physical strength. Unfortunately, it also requires money—often a lot of it.
If you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to pay out of pocket medical expenses, and even gaps in solid insurance coverage can mean bills for thousands of dollars.
According to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 40% of adults have trouble paying bills and lack the means to receive medical treatment. This added financial burden can take an emotional toll when you’re ill.
If you’re struggling with overwhelming debt due to out of pocket expenses, know that you’re not alone. There are numerous resources to help you find financial relief so you can focus on what’s most important: your journey to healing.
Out of pocket costs are rising
People are paying more for out of pocket medical expenses than ever before. One study by the Peterson Center on Healthcare found that out of pocket expenses have been steadily increasing since 1970, and the US still has the lowest insured rate of comparable countries.
These days, even the insured can end up taking on mountains of credit card debt to cover surprise medical bills, and the most stringent financial planners may also be caught off guard by the soaring costs of certain treatments. Another study by the CFPB about debt collection found that medical debt was the number one reason people were contacted by bill collectors.
What are out of pocket expenses?
Out of pocket expenses are medical costs that are not covered by your insurance company. Many insurance companies can deny coverage for certain prescription medicines, mental health care, costly cancer treatments, and chronic diseases, just to name a few.
New changes to the Affordable Care Act may also restrict insurance coverage for Americans, leading to larger gaps in coverage. The current administration plans to expand short-term insurance plans, which won’t have to abide by Obamacare guidelines. This means insurance companies could deny coverage or charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions.
Here are some important terms to know
This is the amount your insurance company requires you to pay before they will cover expenses. For example, if you have a $1,000 deductible, you’ll be required to pay $1,000 before your insurance kicks in. Many insurance companies don’t cover certain services before you meet your deductible.
This is a set amount you pay for certain services, which can vary depending on your insurance plan and the service. Prescriptions, doctors visits, and emergency room visits are all examples of services that require a copay.
This is the amount your insurance company requires you to pay for a certain service after you’ve paid your deductible. Co-insurance is usually a percentage of the treatment cost.
Travel and lodging for necessary treatments
Many people have to travel out of state or out of the country to see specialists. Some insurance companies cover certain travel expenses, like hotels or airline costs.
Nonprofits offering help for out of pocket expenses
There are numerous nonprofits out there that specifically focus on helping people pay for medical-related expenses. The four organizations below assist those who have existing insurance but still need financial help.
- The Health Well Foundation helps the underinsured pay copays, premiums, deductibles and out of pocket expenses. They even help pay for travel expenses incurred on the way to treatment. In 2016, they awarded $168.80 million in grants. To be eligible, you must have some form of existing health insurance, meet the income requirements, and receive treatment in the US.
- Good Days is an organization that provides financial assistance to those suffering from certain diseases. They help cover copays, premiums, and travel costs. They also provide help navigating the healthcare system. Patients must have valid health insurance, be diagnosed with a covered disease, and have a valid Social Security Number, among other requirements.
- United Healthcare Children’s Foundation focuses on providing financial help to children and their families through medical grants. They awarded 2,116 medical grants to children in 2016 that were worth a combined $4.6 million. Children must be 16 years or younger to qualify, have some form of private health insurance, and have a Social Security Number. You can read more about the grant eligibility requirements here.
- The Hope Lodge program through the American Cancer Society provides cancer patients and their families with free lodging while they travel for cancer treatments. Eligibility requirements vary by state.
Assistance from the government
If you meet specific qualifications, government assistance is another option to help with medical costs. Here are three programs that may work for you:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps needy families get back on their feet so they can provide adequate care to their children and eventually become self-sufficient. To be eligible, you must be pregnant or caring for a child under the age of 19. You must be unemployed or underemployed, and be a US national, citizen, legal alien, or permanent resident.
- The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides kids and teens with low-cost health insurance. The program covers services like immunizations, dental care, prescriptions, and hospital visits for children up to age 19 whose families make up to $49,200 per year.
- The Medicare Savings Programs help pay your Medicare premiums, and in some cases, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. There are four different types of Medicare savings programs based on income levels. You can visit the contact information page to find out the specific requirements for your state and see if you’re eligible.
Crowdfunding for medical expenses
Many have turned to crowdfunding to combat overwhelming medical costs. Fundraising for medical expenses allows you to quickly and easily reach your network of friends and family members to help relieve the burden of medical debt.
Online fundraising is becoming increasingly popular because it allows people to raise money for absolutely anything they need, including medical costs. Starting a fundraiser on GoFundMe only takes about five minutes, and using our free fundraising platform will allow you to keep more of your donations. There’s no application process or income requirements, so you can get started raising money for medical bills right away.
See how others avoided medical debt by crowdfunding
Olivia was a normal 12-year-old girl in middle school when a rare cancer diagnosis changed her world. The cancer, T-Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, required chemotherapy and long stays in the hospital. Eventually, Oliva’s doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant to help kick the cancer for good—but this $900,000 procedure wasn’t covered under their family’s insurance plan.
Olivia’s brother was a 100% match for the transplant, so a family friend started a crowdfunding fundraiser on GoFundMe to make the procedure a reality. The fundraiser raised over $300,000 in just two months, and Olivia is well on her way to her goal.
When Raluca’s mom was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, she was shocked. She was also terrified of treatment costs. Her mom wasn’t a US citizen and was uninsured.
Raluca launched a GoFundMe and told the world her mom’s story. By writing a compelling fundraiser story full of emotional details and posting frequent updates to keep her donors in the loop, Raluca touched supporters. She has been able to raise nearly $170,000 for her mom’s cancer treatment.
Get help with out of pocket medical expenses now
From minor surgeries to major cancer treatments, medical-related expenses aren’t cheap—with or without insurance. If you’ve exhausted other options to conquer mounting medical costs, crowdfunding can help you.
By fundraising for out of pocket medical expenses through GoFundMe, you can find financial freedom and focus on your health and recovery. Sign up to create your fundraiser today.