Major Life Challenges Blog Series

We are taking a closer look at some of the big issues we all can face in our lifetime. Each topic will be featured as a blog series.

Serendipity's Medical Debt Wars: Part One

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I was not born with the best health. Being born six weeks early to a severe asthmatic, I think it wasn't in the stars for me to be necessarily healthy. I would say my birth was more like, "Let's just get through this".

Serendipity's Medical Debt Wars: Part OneMedically Challenged: That's My Life

When I was younger, I remember needing breathing treatments like other kids needed candy. I could never fully do P.E because it usually ended up with a trip to the nurse's office and I thought it was normal to have a vaporizer in your bedroom. Never mind the fact that I missed so much school my seventh grade year I was held back.

Things did not really improve from here; a never ending case of strep throat, add a year or two of being home schooled and my mother dying at a very young age herself.

I thought if I could make it through a little bit longer, I'd be good to go.

That ended quickly when I was 16 and hospitalized for an entire month in the ICU because of my asthma. After being put on a ventilator, you realize there's very little health wise that you can't handle. Also, you become severely frightened.

No Health Insurance

I wish I could say I grew out of it but I didn't. If anything, my bad health has followed me in to my adult life, but one thing has not, Health insurance.

When I was 18, I had my first run in with medical debt collection. I was at the doctor's office waiting to get my prescription filled when the receptionist informed me that the doctor wished not to see me due to an outstanding bill from a year ago. The doctor ended up seeing me, but I really doubt he had a choice.

I explained this event to my aunt who told me to go get a separate insurance policy through the state "just because". She was worried my father would fail to insure me and that I'd end up with medical debt.

You Make Too Much

When holding my own insurance policy from the state, I ended up making $12 too much to qualify for the Arizona version of Medicaid. After being denied, I decided I wasn't too worried about it, even though I knew my health history. I hadn't been severely sick in over a year and I still had plenty of time left on prescriptions. Plus, if I needed more, my doctor's office wasn't that expensive and I could stop in. Ahhhh, being young and foolish.

I ended up needing health insurance exactly one month later when I had sharp chest pains. I had broken a rib from coughing. A month later I fell and I bruised my lungs. Then another month when I was put on oxygen for 24 hours from my asthma.

I was able to make payment arrangements, only to lose my job. I decided to move and start over in Las Vegas. I thought I'd be okay once I found work again and then could start making payment arrangements again. But, no one told me I was going to end up in the hospital five more times in less than two years, thanks to my asthma.

Too Late...

After I had started school again in Las Vegas, my father offered to put me on his health insurance since I seemed to be getting worse. But, it was too late. I was thousands of dollars in medical debt.

Rambo had urged me to seek financial guidance or even declare bankruptcy but I made payment arrangements. I made settlements and pleaded my case plenty of times. Finally, I felt better and was starting to make a dent with some of them.

Perhaps there was light at the end of the tunnel!

That came crashing to a halt in early 2009 when I received a certified letter from an unknown sender. Turns out 'unknown sender' was a bill collector in Virginia. They were contacting me to find out if I could pay a hospital bill my father had forgotten to pay when I was 16. Turns out, I was now on the hook for all $3,000 of it.

More to come on my medical debt woes....

More from Serendipity:

My Name is Serendipity Smalls

SerendipitySerendipity Smalls is the writer behind Serendipity’s Guide To Savings. She lives in Las Vegas with her fiancée and enjoys the finer things in life, such as Starbucks, song lyrics and bad reality television.   You can find her on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.


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  • Wow so much medical debt! I luckily have never really had to go to the doctor or a hospital for anything major.

  • I know this is an older post but I found it quite relevant to today's health care debate.  You situation is exactly why the Affordable Care Act was drafted and passed.

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