Dealing with the Stress Fallout of an Emergency and Medical Bills
By Josh Wilson, a Millennial working to become his generation’s personal finance thought leader.
For most Americans, stress is a part of everyday life. It can often be a motivating factor in our lives, pushing us to achieve goals or work harder. However, stress can also be incredibly damaging to both our minds and bodies, causing sadness, anxiety, and even physical health problems. Stress can come from a variety of sources such as relationship issues, work problems, or something simple like being stuck in traffic. However, one of the biggest stressors to watch out for is money stress, and this can become even more prevalent during an emergency.
What’s the Deal with Stress?
Short answer is most Americans do. According to the American Psychological Association, worrying about money is the leading cause of stress for Americans. It can take a significant toll on both your physical and mental health because money stress is often associated with chronic stress. Over time, chronic stress can lead to fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration, depression, anxiety, and other changes in mental health.
Chronic stress may also lead to negative coping behaviors such as overeating, smoking, drinking, or using drugs that can lead to disease or other problems. For instance, studies have shown that chronic stress is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. In addition, chronic stress can make it harder to recover from routine illnesses; in fact, those who deal with chronic stress face a higher risk of a negative outcome after cardiac issues.
An Emergency Can Make It Worse
At its most basic, stressing about money can make anyone’s life worse both mentally and physically. In fact, it’s easy to understand that general stress is bad for your health. It’s also simple to make the connection between stress and financial struggles. However, it certainly is not easy to cope with stress at the best of times. So, when you introduce an emergency medical situation into the equation, the issue can be much more acute; in fact, it can become exponentially dangerous.
If you experienced a terrible accident requiring medical services, then you can become susceptible to multiple stressors, creating a uniquely debilitating situation that increases your risks of chronic stress. What are these stressors? First, you have the physical and emotional trauma of the accident itself.
Second, it is more than likely that you will be straddled with medical bills which is where money gets introduced into an already caustic situation. Medical debt obligations can be extremely difficult in these scenarios because oftentimes the affected debtors cannot return to their daily work schedule to cope with the additional costs of medical care.
Finally, there is the physical rehabilitation period to deal with, and this stage compounds both of the previous stressors while adding additional stress from potential physical recovery issues.
Coping with and Avoiding Money Stress
While stress has an extremely detrimental impact on your health, the unfortunate reality is it’s often unavoidable. Additionally, the debt obligations from a medical emergency are often unavoidable as well. With that being said, there are certainly ways to limit the associated stress from an emergency. Sometimes the best way to reduce money stress is to understand your financial situation while taking actions to set yourself on a clear path forward.
The first financial step after a medical emergency is determining exactly how much you owe. Gather all of your documentation. Make a list of bills and outstanding amounts. From there, start to make calls. Check with your insurance company to determine if any portion of the bill is covered. While the bill may be accurate, mistakes can be made. Verify that the doctor’s office or hospital billed the insurance company correctly, and follow up with your insurance company to find out why certain charges were not covered. Once you have done this, you can reassess how much you owe overall. Oftentimes, doing some of this leg work is already a positive step towards reducing stress.
Next, you need to actually set up a plan of action to pay off the debt. There are a couple of options here.
For starters, you should always contact the healthcare provider to set up a payment plan. Determine what you can pay each month, and negotiate with the billing agency to stay around that payment threshold. If you think that’s impossible, then think again! In most cases, medical bill payment plans are offered at zero percent interest, and the monthly payments are often negotiable. This is the best case scenario, and if it’s done right, you will be able to see the end of the tunnel when it comes to paying back the hospital!
Sometimes, getting a zero percent financing plan isn’t in the books. Don’t stress because there may be other options for resolving the issue. There are other lenders who will step in to help you pay off your medical bills, and in many cases, they are willing to listen to the reasons behind your financial issues. While you might not be able to get zero percent on a medical loan, you can still acquire financial relief as well a path forward towards a financial resolution.
Having debt of any kind can be incredibly stressful. When that debt comes from medical bills, it can make an existing health problem even more challenging. By tackling your debt and understanding how to pay it off, you can avoid stress and the problems that come with it. As mentioned earlier, establishing a clear path forward with your finances is the best anti-stressor.
Please support our guest blogger, Josh Wilson, by checking out his site FamilyFaithFinance.com and leave comments below! Thank you, again, Josh, for this wonderful article!