During my life I had zero credit card debt. I never owned anything extravagant or spent extravagantly. So why did illness drown me financially?
When I became so ill that my job was in jeopardy, my husband and I consoled ourselves with my health insurance. But that didnt last long. When I was finally diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis, we started receiving weekly rejection slips in the mail. Not rejections from a credit card or loan application, but from my own insurance provider. Despite the fact that I had paid, every month, a fee so that they would provide me with coverage, the insurance company didnt feel obligated to actually pay for that coverage. MRI: denied. CT scan: denied. Specialist: denied.
I took the denials to my various doctors, asked them to write on my behalf, scan and forward my medical records. Sometimes this worked and the claim denial was reversed, sometimes it didnt work. Meanwhile, I was extremely ill after a failed first abdominal surgery, and my husband was working overtime, covering all the household duties I could no longer perform, and doing more than his fair share of caring for our three young children.
My disease was taking such an enormous toll on me by then; I could barely function. I had used all my sick and vacation days at work, and by the time I arrived home I was often unable do anything other than lie on the couch. I began to fall behind fighting the insurance company.
After spending months in research, it became clear that I needed a specialist for my next surgery. There wasnt one in San Diego where we live, so we found a specialist on the west coast, the closest we could find. My husband and I flew in and I had the surgery. A day later, I had another surgery.
Arriving home, my health despite the general pain of surgical recovery was clearly, immediately better. Many of the worst symptoms that had plagued me for years were already gone or seriously reduced, and my disease was put into remission but we paid an enormous price.
The years after my surgery have been plagued with more financial stress than I ever thought Id experience in my life. During almost all of 14 years of our marriage both my husband and I have worked. We have zero credit card debt. Weve never owned anything extravagant or spent extravagantly. Yet we ended up over $50,000 debt thanks to medical bill copays.
The IRS put a lein on us, and began taking our tax return every year, which up until that point had been a major and important source of income for our family. We would use our tax return to make major car repairs, pay for dental work, and if we had enough left, do something fun for our children.
Our credit score was annihilated, and with it our ability to get a credit card or take out a loan, right at the first time we needed to do either of those things in any real way. When we had to move, finding a renter who would work with us despite the horror-show of our credit score was humiliating and exhausting. We couldnt save money for our children. The credit checks that employers run made me ill with worry when I was looking for a better-paying job. We couldnt buy a new used car when our old car broke down. And until Obamacare, after my job ended I couldnt get new coverage because of my pre-existing conditions.
The IRS required that every year we again prove what our income was and why we could not pay off the debt, or make substantial payments instead of the very small ones we could afford. The paperwork and back-and-forth was time-consuming and intimidating. Despite the fact that we either had a deferral or made payments, we werent even touching the interest, and so the debt continued to grow. It was like this hydra-headed monster that ate our lives.
With my mothers help, we paid a lawyer and filed with the IRS for an Offer In Compromise a year and half ago. Just a few weeks ago we got notice that it was accepted. This means that the IRS has agreed to take one very reduced payment toward our debt, and in return we are finished with it. This is a huge, important step for our family in recovering from this financial ruin.