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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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Katrina triggers health insurance disaster

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: I am a resident of Louisiana. l lost my home, employment and health insurance because of Hurricane Katrina. My husband and I were personally repairing our home (while living in a FEMA trailer) when I had severe abdominal pains and had to have emergency surgery, it was a matter of life and death. I ended up having a series of surgeries and expensive medical treatment. I have no medical/health or any type of insurance. I was denied Disability, SSI and Medicaid, because I am not 65 years old, I am not blind, I don't have children and I am not permanently disabled. I am unemployed and will continue to be due to the surgeries coming up. I already have $100,000.00 in medical bills and no way to pay. I will incur additional medical expenses with the next 2 surgeries. Do you know of any assistance anywhere that I can possibly get to pay for my medical bills?

A: Thank you for sharing your tragic story. There is no easy solution. Your medical care has been provided as charity care and will likely remain so in the immediate future. The reason this question is addressed here is that, unfortunately, there are many others who are in similar circumstances who, like you, are focused on the wrong issues. The first $100,000 of your medical bills were not covered by health insurance. You need to understand that it is unlikely that the next $100,000 will be covered by insurance either. It is also important to acknowledge that you are not likely to financially recover from this series of devastating experiences anytime soon. You must now shift you focus to protecting whatever assets can be saved and preserving the non-financial quality of life issues. The toughest issue may be "letting go" of the concept of the past where your medical bills were paid by employer-provided health insurance. The medical providers have the right to claim against whatever assets you may own, including your home. It seems from your question (portions were omitted here) that you are not familiar with Medicaid laws. This knowledge is crucial to your financial future. You must either become an expert in this topic on your own or hire a financial adviser or attorney who can help. If you do not take immediate measures, the chances are that you and your husband will not have any assets and will suffer from poor credit ratings and additional financial burdens for many years ahead. Your home equity and any other assets will eventually be taken by the state when both of you die. I urge you to take decisive action now. Forget about the medical bills. Focus all of your energy and money on salvaging whatever financial security you can under the law.


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