This article is not a personal bashing of Dave Ramsey or his methods, or of any celebrity financial advisor. I am simply relaying what has been said to me dozens of times from special needs families who are seeking to reduce their medical expenses.
Several months ago I had an initial consultation with a woman trying to find ways to reduce her son’s autism therapy expenses. During our talk, I mentioned Dave Ramsey, but I could tell she wasn’t interested in talking about him.
“I can do Dave’s “envelope” system, but I don’t have the money or time for anything else. Everyday I handle my son’s health insurance claim denials. I work two jobs and my husband works long hours so we can pay for some of our son’s medical expenses. We use our credit cards to pay for some of my son’s therapies because the insurer takes forever to reimburse those expenses. I can’t think about the future, and that’s why I don’t listen to him anymore.”
Dave Ramsey’s mantra is to avoid debt at all costs. But a dad once told me, “My insurer denied the treatment my autistic son needed. I racked up so much credit card debt that I had to sell my home. But I’d rather go bankrupt helping my son than to have money and always ask, ‘What if?’”
Dave’s advice about emergency funds, debt “snowballs”, funding for college, or paying off the home mortgage is not an option for the families and individuals I consult with. This is not just about him; I’ve received similar complaints about other celebrity financial gurus.
Special needs families are thrown off not only by their child’s (or the parent’s) medical diagnosis but the costs of care. When planning for children, most couples are not expecting their kids to be chronically ill. It’s not a budgetary item when people get married. It’s not part of the equation.
So what can special needs families do to get out of medical debt?
My husband and I did what a lot of parents do when their child receives a diagnosis such as autism: we searched for the appropriate therapies and/or biomedical treatments and used them. Unfortunately, we were unprepared for denied claims from our insurer. Our debt began to mount. From this painful time emerged my method of reducing medical expenses.
We are not debt-free yet, but I believe the technique I discovered to reduce our medical expenses has helped tremendously. We applied medical expense deductions to lower our tax liability, fought successfully to get denied insurance claims approved, and correctly applied cafeteria accounts to estimate our out of pocket medical expenses for the year. We have enough control over our debt to begin to apply some the recommendations Dave Ramsey talks about on his radio show.
I’m determined to guide and empower as many American families and individuals to control their healthcare expenses. Whether you are in debt due to chronic illness or a one-time medical event, I wish to be the bridge between drowning in medical debt and a financially independent lifestyle. Special needs families can “graduate” and begin to take Dave Ramsey’s advice.