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    Community Voices

    Need advice on how to pay for medical bills as a student

    I am considering seeing a functional medicine doctor because I've been having a lot of pain and other symptoms that regularly practicing "Western medicine" doctors are dismissing or not paying attention to. When they do "listen," they suggest prescription meds, which I have tried and am strongly opposed to. However, they're expensive and don't usually accept insurance. I'm considering taking out a personal loan through my bank or maybe using a low interest credit card and doing it anyways. I could also take out additional student loans, but I'm already in about $80,000 of student loan debt. Has anyone else paid for medical bills using any of these methods or seen a functional medicine doctor? Is it worth it? Any advice? Thank you! #ChronicIllness #money #medicalgaslighting #functionalmedicine

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    Community Voices

    Is Your OCD Expensive?

    I need a lot of things, like tissues, disinfectant wipes, toilet wipes, computer screen wipes, extra clothes, nitrile/vinyl gloves, (sometimes multiple) things for certain purposes, because of my OCD, plus I need things for physical disabilities and issues, like bed pads, extra bathroom tissue, dry eye drops, powder/products for sweating and chafing, and more. These are only a few things for each I need, but I don't always have them all. My boyfriend gets mad at me for the things I need, and that I eat out. That's an ocd thing, too, but more of a mental health thing. I don't do well staying in the motel room, even for one day, and I have to wait for him till at least after 8:00 pm most days to bring me a meal (usual Chinese chicken fried rice, and I find Chinese boooring, but I don't want anything the convenience store offers. I also can't eat just anything because my teeth are so bad and missing, plus my body doesn't react well to some foods. I can't cook at the motel because the microwave is broken and my boyfriend has cooked things in there that are a problem for me.

    Anyway, I'm in a restaurant now (another reason I'm limited is, I have to know the restaurant bathrooms aren't a problem for me), and the waiter asked how I was, and I gave a "so-so" hand gesture, and he asked what was wrong. I said, "Money." He said, "Why are you eating here, then?" I don't feel like explaining my OCD and other issues to anyone, plus it's none of his business, anyway. I usually get the cheapest dish, other than soup, although today I got fish, because I was really craving fish. Also, the drinks are free refills. This is my only meal of the day, except for a small snack later.

    Does anyone go through a lot of things because of their ocd, and maybe other reasons?


    Skye Gailing

    Is Medical Debt Causing You Anxiety? Here's Some Good News

    I won’t beat around the bush: I’m in a lot of debt. Like most chronically ill folks, I have my fair share of ever-increasing medical bills that lurk in my file folder, filling me with shame and dread. In addition to the routine costs of having a rare disease and several co-morbid conditions, I have tens of thousands in student loan debt – both private and federal. The U.S. health care system (and other lending schemes, let’s be honest) is based on predatory billing and collections practices, so until that changes, the best we can do is work with what we have. It’s not all doom and gloom for us, however. How Medical Debt Is Changing There are some exciting changes coming July 1, 2022! The three major credit bureaus are joining forces to remove approximately 70% of medical debt that’s already gone to collections from consumers’ credit reports. Medical collection debt that has been paid will be removed from credit reports and, in the first half of 2023, the three bureaus will also stop including medical debt that’s in collections and under $500 on reports. In addition to all of this, the No Surprises Act – which helps protect patients from unexpected costs associated with seeing an out-of-network provider they did not choose, such as during an emergency or for surgery – will be more aggressively enforced. The VA will also stop reporting approximately 90% of the debt they have been and will be streamlining their debt forgiveness process. So, how does this actually affect me? These changes help remove surprise credit score and report changes because health care facilities and insurance companies don’t typically report unpaid bills to credit bureaus. Instead, these bills get sent to collections agencies, and, after a year thanks to these changes, the debt then gets reported to bureaus. Well, what’s the worst-case scenario? If you do wind up having to deal with a collections agency, it is not the end of the world! The thought of going to collections can be scary, but you can equip yourself with knowledge and face the situation on your own terms. Collections companies will harass you to try to make you pay your medical debt. If you have a large amount of debt that you don’t pay for a long period of time, the provider or collections agency might file a lawsuit. There are rules these collections agencies must (OK, are supposed to) follow, however, including a statute of limitations for the length of time the collector has to sue you, which varies by state. The National Consumer Law Center has a digital book called “Surviving Debt,” which is free to access during the COVID-19 pandemic. This book includes tips for dealing with collections, including how to write a no-contact letter. What happens if my medical bill is sent to collections? Here are some simple steps: You will want to see how your credit report has been impacted. Due to the pandemic, you can get free weekly credit reports from all three credit bureaus from until the end of 2022. Does your credit report have any errors? If so, dispute the claim on your report with the bureaus themselves. Gather evidence and file a different letter for each bureau that has the inaccurate debt listed on your report. TikTok is actually a decent source for tips on writing these letters! If your credit report is accurate, then pay off your debt to the best of your ability. Your account will show that the debt has been paid – late payment looks a lot better than no payment – and that will help you when seeking approval from lenders and creditors in the future. Unfortunately, this might not improve your actual score right away, but it will get better. I hope this information brings you some relief as you navigate our complicated U.S. health care system. These are major developments that could help a lot of people, including you and me!

    Skye Gailing

    Medical Debt, Explained: What People With Chronic Illness Need to Know

    One in five Americans are affected by medical debt. This is a major stressor that can affect anybody and everybody, especially those of us living with chronic physical and mental illnesses and other disabilities. Do you have medical debt? So do I! Here’s what you need to know about it: As with other forms of debt, medical debt occurs when medical bills go unpaid. This is an especially insidious form of debt, as most insurance policies won’t cover the full cost of appointments, procedures, therapies, etc., and medical practices can overcharge for their services, leaving patients responsible for the difference. As of early 2022, 65.9 million people in the U.S. have medical debt, and it’s the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country. The way medical debt is reported, however, is different from the other types. Your credit report and score are not impacted by your medical bills until they have been sent to collections. The period of time before your bill is sent to a collections agency is determined by the individual health care provider and/or practice. So, how do we deal with medical bills before they go to collections? The best preventative measure is to speak with your insurance company before any medical procedures or seeing a specialist. Depending on your plan, you might need a prior authorization, referral, etc. in order for your care to be covered. You’ll also want to keep an eye on your insurance deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. If you’re eligible for Medicaid, you may be able to have your coverage retroactively applied to medical bills from the three months before the actual start date of your Medicaid plan. I know, I know, this is all much easier said than done, especially when an unpredictable event occurs. Let’s get into what you can do about medical bills after the fact: When you receive the bill from your health care provider or explanation of benefits from your insurance company, check your bill for any errors. Call your insurance company and the billing office of your health care practice immediately if you see any errors on your bill or you have a question about the amount you’re being charged. If your insurance company is giving you a hard time, you haven’t met your deductible, or you just need help paying your bill (I had knee surgery in 2020, I feel you), ask the finance office of the hospital or medical practice about setting up a payment plan, or see if they have a financial assistance policy (sometimes called charity care). If it’s a nonprofit hospital, they are required by law to have a financial assistance program. With a quick internet search, you can also usually find a church, nonprofit, or other organization that has funds to help folks with their health care costs. Use the Healthcare Bluebook to find the fair price for your procedure (you can also ask for the Medicare/Medicaid price), rather than the “chargemaster rate.” Take this information to the billing office and ask them to adjust your bill. It also helps to ask for an itemized bill, that way you can find the fair price for each part of your procedure, appointment, etc. Do you get nervous at the thought of negotiating or standing up for yourself? Same. When you contact your hospital, ask them to direct you to their patient advocate or patient representative. These folks help patients in these situations all the time! Try not to put your medical debt on a credit card. Credit cards have high interest rates and you can’t negotiate the amount you owe once it’s on a card. If you have to put your debt on a card but don’t have a credit card or a high enough credit limit, you can apply for a new credit card or personal loan, although applying for a new line of credit doesn’t look great on your report and involves a hard pull of your credit report, which decreases your credit score. If you do go this route, make sure you find a card that provides you with 0% APR for as long as possible. Which is the worst debt to let simmer? Hint: it’s not medical debt. While medical debt can be intimidating, it is probably safe to consider it the least harmful type of debt. If you can, try to prioritize your rent, mortgage, student loan, and credit card payments, as these are the accounts with the highest interest rates. Being late on these payments will cause a greater impact on your credit report and score than unpaid medical debt. You’re not alone. There are approximately 79 million Americans currently dealing with outstanding medical bills or debt. I attend 3-4 appointments each week and I dread receiving those bills in the mail (and that’s before taking into account prescription costs, specific foods for medically necessary diets, and special braces and clothing). It is unjust that health care costs frequently prevent us from receiving the care we need and deserve – and add an unnecessary burden that can exacerbate our conditions. For more information, check out the following resources: RIP Medical Debt (the ultimate resource for all things medical debt-related). A great explainer on how to save money on medical bills from Her First $100K. Viral TikTok Video Highlights Hospital Medical Bill Debt Forgiveness Rule 5 Tips for Becoming Financially Equipped for Living With Chronic Illness NPR’s LifeKit has answers to all of your money questions – including how to deal with the finances of medicine.

    Skye Gailing

    Credit, Explained: What People With Chronic Illness Need to Know

    I was “fortunate” enough to grow up in a family that has a lot of money troubles. I knew what it meant to receive unemployment benefits when I was 9, could explain the intricacies of Medicaid at 10, and knew how to file my own reduced-price school lunch paperwork at 11. The repercussions of financial stress at a young age and early maturation aside, I use the term “fortunate” because I am genuinely thankful that I entered college and the working world knowing about the world of credit, especially once my health care became more complicated. As folks experiencing chronic illness know all too well, being sick is expensive and credit reporting in America is a complicated and confusing system that is not made to benefit the people who use it. Taking care of our health can take up the majority of our time and energy already, so learning the ins and outs of a super complicated credit reporting system might just not be feasible. Does this sound like you? You’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know to get started navigating the hellscape that is U.S. credit reporting. Let’s start with the basics: What is a credit report? Credit reports are statements that contain almost your entire financial history. Creditors, such as credit card companies and loan servicers, report your financial data to credit bureaus (more on that below). Different creditors may report to different credit bureaus. Your credit report usually contains personal information, including your social security number, any and all credit accounts you either have or have had in the past, public records, including foreclosures, bankruptcies, and civil lawsuits, and the names of companies that have requested your report. There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. These agencies are responsible for compiling your credit scores and creating your credit reports, which lenders then use to examine your payment history and deem your “creditworthiness.” Your payment history is super important in the world of lending because it shows the lender that you make payments on time and take responsibility for the debts you accrue. Credit scores can vary across the different credit bureaus and different lenders may use different scores. Each credit bureau creates their own credit report for you. It’s an unfair and terrible system, I know. What makes up your credit score? Your credit score is the synthesis of the information in your credit report, wrapped up in a number typically ranging from 300-850, with 850 being the best possible score. An excellent credit score ranges from 720-850. The major items comprising this number are credit utilization, type of credit, the number of debts you’ve taken on in a certain period of time, your credit history, and hard inquiries (pulls of your credit score when taking out a new loan or applying for a new, not pre-approved, credit card). How long does information stay on your credit report? Generally, negative information remains on your credit report for seven years. The negative outcome of a lawsuit can stay on your report for either the duration of the statute of limitations or the seven-year limit, whichever one is longer. If you declare bankruptcy, that information stays on your credit report for up to 10 years. Even when the negative information no longer appears on your credit report, the credit bureaus can retain the information indefinitely. The exceptions to the seven-year rule are if you apply for a job that would pay greater than $75,000 a year or if you apply for greater than $150,000 in credit or life insurance. In these instances, the employer or lender can access all of your credit history, including the negative information that is more than seven years old. PSA: If a company offers to “fix” your credit report in exchange for money up front, do not accept their offer. This is a scam. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: The credit system sucks. But you are not alone. Schools should include lessons on credit systems and lending practices as part of their core curriculum. The only way a lot of folks learn about these topics is by being thrown into the credit reporting system without a full grasp on what’s happening (enter: young me). Hopefully, the information I’ve shared equips you with the knowledge and confidence you need to learn more and advocate for yourself in the financial realm. We’ve got this! More Resources for Managing Finances With Chronic Illness For more information, check out the following resources and stories: 5 Tips for Becoming Financially Equipped for Living With Chronic Illness Her First $100K has amazing information about which credit cards to use, tackling debt from all different sources, and how to prioritize your mental and financial health. 5 Ways to Control Your Anxiety About Finances NPR’s LifeKit has answers to all of your money questions. We Need to Talk About the Financial Impact of Being a Spoonie How the Broken U.S. Healthcare System Is Breaking My Family

    Surviving the Economic Crisis: You're Doing Better Than You Think

    Hey, you.  You’re doing amazing right now. I know it feels like you’re not, but it’s not you, it’s literally the world around you. A week ago I tweeted the following tweet, and for my very small Twitter account, it performed exceedingly well which told me that what I was feeling, shame and embarrassment at not being able to afford to practically live, wasn’t an individualized feeling. In fact, 550 direct people related to how I felt. You're not bad with your money. The world is on fire and life isn't affordable.Cut yourself some slack. You're doing a good job in the hellscape we live in.— Brittany Johnson (@heybrittanyj) June 2, 2022 We are living in a time where it feels like quite literally everything is on fire, especially if you live in the states. There’s currently a push back on reproductive rights, anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation advancing in our government, shortages of baby formula, “inflation” where rent and gas prices have nearly doubled and tripled, and that’s the short list of all the things wrong with the world right now. What was affordable in 2020 or even 2021 isn’t now, and while the cost of living has skyrocketed, the wages and salaries being paid have not. Your bank account right now does not reference your personal worth. It references how messy, gross, and disgusting the world is right now. It’s easy, especially when you live with mental health conditions, to let this dominate your mindset. All of a sudden all of those unkind words people said about you (and your condition) feel true. “Am I left overdrawn because I’m impulsive?  Manic? Is that the reason? Maybe they were right about me…” We want to find a reason for why this is happening to our bank accounts, because sadly all that negative number does is reinforce harsh and mean stereotypes and things people have said about us in the past. However, as I said, this isn’t you. It’s the world. Your anxiety about your bank account is valid. Your frustration at what’s happening all around us is more than warranted, but don’t look in the mirror and blame yourself – not when we’re in the middle of economic crisis after crisis. You’re doing a good job responding to a chaotic and unstable economic landscape. You’re surviving against all financial odds, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Be nice to yourself. You’re doing great, sweetie. If you can, still use the extra little change to treat yourself when you can. Get the double versus the single, go buy a little face mask, just do what you can to still treat yourself with the basic human care that you deserve. We’ll get through this together, but in the meantime, be as good to you as possible. I’m proud of you. You’re not alone.

    Community Voices

    × " How To Set " Boundrie's " With Family Member's When It Come's To Helping Them Out With Money ? " × # TrustIssue's #Family

    × " So My Sister Sent Me A Text Today... I Was Super Busy At My Job.. I Guess She Has Her Hubs Paying The Mortgage Or Whatever And My Nephew Pay's The Internet... I Litterly Buy Toilet Paper And Laundry Liquid... Because They Blow Through It Within A Week. For No Reason. I Have Asked Them To STOP Paying For My Cell Phone Bill. Now That I Have A Full-Time Job. I Can Pay It Myself. And They Also Want Me To Pay The Water Bill Which Is $100.00+ . I Have No Problem With Helping What Make's Me Angery Is The Timing Like. I Budget Everything With My Money Now That I'm Alone. So I'm A Huge Pennie Pincher Now. Except When I Really Want Something For Myself Then I Spend More. I Just Wish That They Tell Me Before The Month Start's Not In The Middle Of The Month. Sigh Sooo Annoying AF. " × #boundries #money #Family Sincerly, ☆ S. K. ☆

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    Community Voices

    Today's my birthday, and it's not going at all how I planned. I got up later than planned, because my boyfriend "lost track of time"; I was going to treat myself while at the same time challenging myself by traveling to a store I've been wanting to go to for a long time that's further away than I've driven by myself since I was young, but my boyfriend informed me upon waking yesterday that he has serious financial issues and we'll be super tight until he gets paid next Friday, but we'll still be tight; nevertheless, I still overspent, and feel like a pos; I got to dinner late, and had to wait and use up some gas, looking for a parking space; things just keep going wrong; and I'm just stupid! What's wrong with me?

    13 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    Feeling guilty for feeling depressed

    One of the things that I struggle with the most is feeling stupid for being sad/depressed/anxious over seemingly small things. I get overwhelmed very easily especially when I am in one of my depression funks. If I have a few daily stresses of life pile up on me I start to feel like I’m in a whirlpool of despair and I don’t know how to handle it. For example, I am in the middle of trying to open a new business. The buildout for this has taken over a year due to lack of sub contractors showing up and just many things going wrong. I am making no money to support myself nor do I have a savings. Along with this comes the types of costs in life that sometimes you can’t avoid. I had to take my dog to the vet yesterday to treat an ear infection and that turns into $300. Of course you pay it and move on, you love your pet. Now I have a very good friend getting married and wanting me to be involved in the wedding party. What do you do? How could you possibly say no to this? The trips being planned, the outfits, all of the expenses that I have to put up in the next week. Over $300. And that won’t be the last of it. This is just the beginning. I’m going on a rant, but these things send me into a spiral. I am already feeling so down and these things push me farther. I feel lost and hopeless, not being able to support yourself is a terrible feeling. And asking for help makes me feel worse. If you made it to the end thank you, I appreciate you. #Depression #overwhelmed #money #Stress

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    Community Voices

    Food and Nutrition Friday: Food Assistance Resources

    <p>Food and Nutrition Friday: Food Assistance Resources</p>