College Connect Spring 2019: Overcoming Unexpected Medical Expenses

Posted By David Wilhite on Wednesday April 10, 2019

By Mauli Desai

A visit to the doctor’s office is often met with the question: “On a scale of one to 10 rate your pain.” Rajan Bedi’s response of nine out of 10 on the pain scale was the beginning of a yearlong ordeal.

In 2018, while on his way to The Reserve apartment complex to watch the Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots in The Super Bowl, Bedi, was hit on the driver side by a speeder who blew past a yield sign at an intersection on the east side of Athens, Georgia.

In the aftermath of the accident, Bedi said he had to argue with the other driver’s insurance company to get reparations because the accident caused injuries and interrupted his studies at the University of Georgia. The management information system major said he had to demand for the offender’s insurance company to reimburse his medical bills and the semester’s tuition.

The then 20-year-old went through aggressive experimental therapy for six months which included painful deep freezing and deep heating procedures to treat severe muscle spasms, back and neck issues caused by the accident.

However, Bedi said the hardest part was paying for everything up front, out of pocket, before there was an insurance settlement. His mom runs a tax firm, so most of the family income comes during the tax season between January and April.

“It was actually kind of frightening. But it did shed a light into how important financial stability is. It kind of taught me the value of having emergency funds,” Bedi said.

While his family had an emergency fund, Bedi believes all the money went straight into the retainer for the lawyer they hired.

For now, Bedi is a high-risk dependent on his mom’s insurance because he was in a high-impact accident, even though the he wasn’t at fault. The Suwanee native took a defensive driving course and repeated his driver’s education course to “provide proof to my insurance, look, I’m a reasonable person, I don’t usually drive recklessly, I wasn’t even driving recklessly in the accident.”

The office of the commissioner Georgia Office of Insurance and Fire Safety (GADOI) recommends all drivers should “purchase uninsured motorists coverage” as part of their auto insurance in order to protect against losses in an accident with an uninsured and at-fault driver.  “You will be paid for damages just as if the other driver was covered,” according to its resource guide on automobile insurance.

While it’s important to understand the role that car insurance plays in an accident, being prepared for unexpected medical expenses also means knowing how to buy and use proper health insurance.

Chris Campos, a project manager at GADOI, which regulates insurance companies, said when faced with unexpected medical expenses it is best to go to a doctor that is in-network with your current health insurance.

She specified the importance of checking the insurance company website to find the covered providers. This becomes even more important with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) policy because such coverage only provides benefits to go to an in-network doctor except in life-threatening situations.

“The main thing is to go to a doctor that participates in the network to get the best benefits,” Campos said.

For people looking for health insurance, Campos said to ask companies: “What is the provider network? How accessible are the doctors in the area? and what are the in-network hospital emergency rooms in your area?”

Campos also advised to verify “the company and the agents you’re dealing with have the license to sell insurance (in Georgia).”

Mauli Desai is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.

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