Budgets and Chronic Health Conditions

In the summer of 2011, a lot of things happened that changed my life forever.

In the course of a few months, I graduated from with my bachelor’s degree, got married, landed my first “big girl” job and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

As newlyweds, my husband and I were in the process of merging our stuff and our finances, as well as adjusting to our new full time incomes and looming student loan debts.

We’d set up a budget and a plan to start chipping away at that debt, and then I found myself at the doctor’s office thinking I had the stomach flu, but a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (formerly and more commonly known as juvenile diabetes) landed me in a hospital bed for three days.

Thankfully, I was still covered under my independent health insurance plan that I had joined in college when it became more expensive to stay on my parents’ plan than to get my own. The hospital worked with us on setting up a payment plan for the three day stay. But the reality was our lives and our budget would never be the same.

Type 1 diabetes has no cure and takes intensive management to control in order for me to live a close to regular life. If you live with a chronic health condition, you know that it can take a toll on your budget, so here are my two cents (rather eight cents) on handling the costs of chronic medical conditions:

1. Accept the certainty.

If they cured type 1 tomorrow, I’d be over the moon, but right now my diabetes is a certainty and it needs its own priority in our budget. This is the biggest tip I can give.

2. Know your insurance plan.

My husband and I are in a pretty good place insurance-wise that we could pick his employer’s plan or my employer’s plan for both of us, split it up or go completely independent. We did the research on both plans and got quotes for several different independent plans to find the best coverage that will let me keep the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor that I use as well as stay with my same medical team (Last time I counted, I have eight medical professionals on my “team” most people have three or four).

3. Use your insurance coverage.

This seems like a no brainer, but some people don’t know that their plans cover more than just doctor visits and medicine. Some plans cover other items such as glucose test strips or supplements.

4. Adjust your grocery budget.

Diet is a big part of living well with diabetes (of all types) and other medical conditions. For us, we need to buy lower carb foods and items like bread and pasta that are lower in carbs are higher in cost.

5. Be wise with taxes.

We’re on a high-deductible health plan and can take advantage of a health savings account that lets us pay medical bills with pretax money. Also, look into whether you can claim mileage to doctor’s appointments and medical expenses paid with after tax dollars on your tax returns.

6. Ask for what you need.

Before you spend the money on a new prescription if you and your doctor are changing your health management strategy, ask for sample of the new medicine. Also ask for the best timing for you and your budget. I asked my doctor to squeeze me in for a late December appointment since I’d hit my deductible and coming right after January 1st would cost us a lot out of pocket right after the holidays. She happily fit me in. Some doctors think about the costs and timing, while others don’t.

7. Use generic when possible.

This is a good option for anyone. Unfortunately there isn’t a generic option for my insulin, but for other medications that I have to take generic is way cheaper.

8. Don’t let your health suffer in order to save money.

For me, if I skimp on glucose monitoring (test strips cost approximately $1 per strip, each test uses one strip), insulin or opt to use syringe injections over my insulin pump (personal decision) my own health will suffer and I’ll open myself up to complications in the future that will cost much more and ruin my quality of life.

Because we have a high-deductible insurance plan, we can know exactly how much my health care will cost us each year. That makes it easier to plan our budget and be smarter with our money.

Having a chronic health condition can definitely impact your budget and I’ve dealt with a lot of unnecessary financial guilt over how much my health costs my family. But at the end of the day, I have to look at my medical costs as an investment in my health and future, even if that means we can’t pay off our student loan debts as quickly as we’d like to.

Author bio: By day, Rachel works in agency public relations. By night, she blogs about marriage, home ownership, creative projects including clothing refashions, living well with type 1 diabetes and a variety of other things at probablyrachel.com.

#Budget #Debt


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