The American healthcare system is complex and scary. It’s easy to imagine that a health problem could bankrupt us – and, for some of us, that fear is very well-founded. But there are things that each of us can do to reduce the risk that a sudden health problem ruins us financially. Here are a few vital tips.
Your Body is an Investment
You can never be completely sure that you’ll avoid illness or injury, but you can put the odds in your favor by treating your body like an investment. More often than not, we get out of our bodies what we put in. Focus on your health and wellness: join a gym, eat right, and avoid unhealthy habits like smoking. Gyms aren’t free, of course, but think of it this way: they’re a whole lot cheaper than a sudden trip to a hospital’s emergency room.
If you invest in your health now, you’ll be more likely to avoid costly medical problems later on. In this case, the best defense is a good offense!
Save before you need to
Even with health insurance (which we’ll discuss in a moment), you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket for some of your medical needs. As with all of life’s expenses, it’s best to save the money for this before the issue arises.
That may seem obvious, but thinking about a potential future medical problem can be a good way of making the need for good saving habits seem more immediate. Too few of us save money regularly. When you’re considering your budget, remember that the money you save isn’t just for retirement or other distant goals. It could be something that you need tomorrow, if you were to suffer a sudden accident or illness!
So head to the bank or credit union. Open a savings account (or two). Develop an emergency fund – it should cover around three months’ worth of expenses, at least – which you can use for any sudden expense, including healthcare, or to cover regular expenses if you have a sudden change in income. Then keep right on saving. With luck, you’ll never need more than your emergency fund and you’ll be able to use any additional savings on future expenses like purchasing a home. But this extra saving can also be useful if you meet with an emergency that’s too big for your emergency fund to handle – as many health crises can be.
Health Insurance: A Vital Investment
As of this writing, you’re still required by law to have health insurance. That may not be the case for long, but even if the law changes, healthy people would be wise to invest in health insurance.
If you wait until after you’re sick to get health insurance (especially if the law changes soon), you could be in deep trouble. Health insurance companies charge more for sick people, of course, and until you actually get on a policy you’ll be responsible for all of your medical costs yourself!
That’s why it’s vital to invest in health insurance before you need it, and to carry it even if you feel health. If you have health insurance, a sudden accident or illness is less likely to leave you in financial trouble.