How to Find Surgery Assistance When You Need It Most

| 6 min read Financial Assistance

The cost of some medical procedures can literally add insult to injury. Even if you have health insurance, deductible and out-of-pocket costs can soon add up. When you add these expenses to your loss of earnings while you’re recovering, the final bill can be rather scary. If you need help with paying for an operation, have a look at the resources below for help.

Instalment payment plans

What to do if you’re not insured

Some hospitals may allow you to pay for your operation in instalments if you’re not able to settle your bill in full on the day of your surgery. The best way to approach this is by talking to the hospital’s finance department before your surgery, but this may not be an option if you’re admitted for an emergency operation. In emergency cases, the hospital may need to discuss a payment plan with you to settle your bill. It’s very important to address this as soon as you are well enough so that the hospital’s finance department is aware that you have a payment plan agreement in place. This will prevent any issues later on, such as the involvement of a debt collection agency.

What to do if you are insured

Even if you have health insurance, the cost of an operation may not be fully covered and you may still have to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. In this situation, it’s still highly advisable to contact your insurance company, surgical department or hospital and ask if they can help you set up a payment plan. Remember that the surgery department wants to get paid so they may be very willing to negotiate a payment plan with you. It’s important to ask before the day of your operation if possible – but you can always try to set this up afterwards.

Short-term disability

If you live and work in a US state with a mandatory programme for short-term disability, you can apply for financial benefits to help you while you recover from your operation. At the current time, only five states offer this type of coverage – New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island and California, along with the US territory of Puerto Rico – but laws do change. Check to see if your state has coverage, even if it’s not listed here.

This financial assistance is available after you’ve had your operation, but it won’t help you pay for the operation itself. When you submit an application, it’s important to be clear what the restrictions are on short-term disability coverage. You need to know what the maximum monthly benefit is and how long it is available for.

Government-sponsored programmes

For children

Insure Kids Now is a good resource for low-income working parents who don’t have health insurance or whose insurance does not cover their children. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide or low-cost health insurance for children (though their future status is uncertain under the current administration), and some cities, including San Francisco, offer or affordable health coverage for children from low- and middle-income families. Each state has different eligibility rules; make sure that you find out what is available in your location.

For veterans

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

For seniors

People aged 65 and over are eligible for healthcare coverage, including surgery, through Medicare. Medicare coverage is divided into several parts: Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers in-patient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care and some home healthcare. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain doctors’ services, out-patient care, medical supplies and prevention services.

For everyone

Also find out if the state you live in offers any medical coverage for people on low income (and if you require major surgery, you may be eligible for this now – which wasn’t the case before). Start with Healthcare.gov – a so-called “qualifying event” such as a diagnosis may allow you to apply for subsidised coverage even outside the Affordable Care Act’s usual application windows. If your state has its own healthcare exchange, Healthcare.gov will redirect you there. You then need to follow their instructions 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. Crowdfunding for help with the cost of an operation has become nearly as common as some routine surgical procedures.

Crowdfunding can be particularly effective in the case of an emergency operation. If you or a loved one has to have emergency surgery, you may not have much time to organise your finances – but you can raise money quickly with medical fundraising. Use our Medical Crowdfunding Guide to learn about raising funds for operations and other medical expenses.

Successful surgery fundraiser examples

  1. You can start a fundraiser on your own or someone else can start it for you. For example, Chris’ appendectomy recovery. After Chris and his wife welcomed their new baby, he had to have an emergency operation. But he had no paid time off from his job and found it difficult to pay for the costs of the operation and his aftercare. His friend Amanda decided to step into the breach and start a GoFundMe for his surgery costs and ended up by raising more than $5,000 towards his hefty medical bills. Thanks to this help, the family were able to focus their attention on their new baby and Chris’s recovery with a lot less stress.
  2. Pauly and Yaniv’s cases are some examples of fundraisers for transplant surgery on GoFundMe. After fighting a brain tumour 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. This made it easier for him and his family to focus on his long-term recovery and his return to full health.

Why fundraising matters

When you need help paying for an operation or another major expense in your life, every dollar counts. That’s why GoFundMe is powered by donors™. We don’t charge a platform fee so that you keep more of the money you raise.

Get help with paying for your operation today

Don’t let surgery bills push you to the brink of medical debt. The more you know about the financial aid available ahead of time, the better you’ll be prepared if an emergency strikes.

Start a medical fundraiser