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How to Find Surgery Assistance When You Need It Most

Paige Kutilek
|6 min read

Financial Assistance

The cost of some medical procedures can literally add insult to injury. Even if you have an insurance policy for healthcare expenses, pre-deductible and out-of-pocket costs can quickly escalate. When you add these expenses to lost wages during recovery, the total bill can be pretty steep. If you’re in need of surgery assistance, look to the resources below for help.

Payment plans

If you don’t have insurance

Some hospitals may offer payment plans for your surgery if you’re not able to cover the full cost at the time of the procedure. The best way to handle this is by asking the hospital’s billing department before your surgery, but this may not always be possible if you have an emergency procedure. In emergency cases, the hospital may want to work with you to establish a payment plan to cover the costs. It’s very important to address this as soon as you’re able to so the hospital’s billing department knows an alternate payment option has been established for you. This will prevent any issues down the line, such as the involvement of a collection agency.

If you do have insurance

Even if you have insurance, the cost of a surgery may not be fully covered and you may face out-of-pocket expenses. In cases like this, it’s still wise to contact your insurance, surgeon, or hospital and ask if they can help you with a payment plan. Remember that your surgery provider wants to get paid so they may be very willing to work with you on a payment plan. It’s important to ask before your procedure when possible, but afterwards is never too late.

Temporary disability

If you live and work in a state with a mandatory program for temporary disability, you can apply for benefits to help you financially while you recover from surgery. (As of this writing, only five states offer this type of coverage—New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and California, as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico—but laws change. Check to see if your state has coverage, even if it’s not listed here.)

While this financial assistance helps you following your surgery, it won’t help you pay for the surgery itself. Also, you should know when you apply what the limits of short-term disability coverage are: the cap on both monthly benefits and the length of time you can receive them.

Government programs

For kids

Insure Kids Now is a great resource for low-income working parents who don’t have health insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t extend coverage to their kids. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide free or low-cost health insurance for children (though their future status is in flux under the current administration), and some cities, including San Francisco, offer free or affordable health coverage for kids from low- and middle-income families. Each state has different eligibility rules; see what the options are for yours.

For veterans

All veterans can apply for health care benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, only some veterans are eligible for free health care without copays. Once enrolled, veterans receive a medical benefits package, which includes inpatient care services including surgery. Veterans and their families are also offered a patient advocate to help guide them through the system.

For seniors

People 65 and over can get health care coverage through Medicare, including surgery coverage. Medicare coverage is divided into several parts: Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.

For everyone

Also look to see if your state offers any medical coverage for those with lower incomes (and when you’re facing a major surgery, you may qualify where you hadn’t before). Start with Healthcare.gov—a “qualifying event” such as a diagnosis may allow you to apply for subsidized coverage even outside the Affordable Care Act’s usual application windows. If your state has its own healthcare exchange, Healthcare.gov will send you there; once there, follow directions to see if you qualify for insurance subsidies or other coverage.

Medical crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a tool anyone can use to help with the costs of surgery in an age of rising insurance deductibles and shrinking coverage, and crowdfunding for surgery has become nearly as routine as some common surgical procedures.

For emergency surgery, crowdfunding can be particularly effective. If you or a loved one is facing emergency surgery, you may have little time to organize your finances—but you can raise money quickly with medical fundraising. Use our Medical Crowdfunding Guide to learn about raising funds for surgery and other medical expenses.

Successful surgery fundraiser examples

  1. You can start a fundraiser on your own, or have someone else start it for you. Take, for example, Chris’ appendectomy recovery. After Chris and his wife welcomed their new baby, he faced an unexpected surgery but had no paid time off from his work and found it difficult to pay for the costs of the surgery and his aftercare. His friend Amanda decided to take action and start a GoFundMe for his surgery costs and was able to raise over $5,000 to put towards mounting medical bills. With this help, the family was able to focus their attention on their new family and Chris’s recover—all with less stress.
  2. Pauly and Yaniv’s cases are some examples of fundraisers for transplants on GoFundMe. After battling a brain tumor and cancer at a young age, Pauly faced the prospect of a double lung transplant. Pauly’s family and friends rallied behind him to raise over $40,000 to cover many of his out-of-pocket costs, making it easier for him and his family to focus on his long recovery and getting healthy again.

Why free fundraising matters

When you need help paying for surgery or another life event, every dollar counts. That’s why GoFundMe is powered by donors™. We don’t charge a platform fee, so you get to keep more of the money you raise.

Find surgery assistance today

Don’t let medical bills from surgery push you to the verge of medical debt. The more familiar you are with your financial assistance options, the better you will be prepared in the event of an emergency.

Start a medical fundraiser

Paige Kutilek

About Paige Kutilek

I'm keen on creating meaningful and thoughtful content that will have an impact. I'm a dedicated individual with a creative touch who is always eager to learn more. Lover of cats, avocados, and tea.

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