According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every thirty-three children is born with a birth defect.  Birth defects are not the only cause of disabilities. Accidents can cause disabilities, as can military combat and severe forms of substance abuse. This is significant because it reflects the sad fact that disabilities impact a great deal more than one in every thirty-three families. Equally significant, there is nothing on the horizon to suggest that these probabilities will be changing any time soon.

Personal finance becomes urgently important when a disability is involved. Foremost amongst the many considerations of caring for disabled people is the choice and funding of medical care. In general, the best medical care is found in teaching hospitals. In addition to superior doctors, teaching hospitals tend to have deep levels of expertise with numerous insurance plans. They can also be accommodative in setting up payment plans for deductibles and other non-covered medical expenses.

However, teaching hospitals may not accept all forms of medical insurance, including some governmentally-provided medical insurance. For example, my daughter is disabled and neither our local teaching hospital, nor any of her other doctors, accept the medical insurance she was provided as part of her Social Security Disability benefits. When something like this happens, one should immediately push-back on the medical insurance they were provided with. We are currently in the investigative stage of doing this with our daughter’s case worker. We are also proceeding with her medical care through the medical insurance that I purchased separately through my employer, which is accepted by our local teaching hospital and all of our daughter’s doctors.

In general, doctors, hospital administrators and elected officials are eager to help in disability-related financial disputes like this, if you have your facts straight. Being fact-based is critically important given the stress levels involved. Watching disabled people, especially children, struggle through day-to-day activities exerts extreme amounts of emotional stress. Stress levels can dramatically rise when intensive medical treatments like surgery are required. It can be tempting during such times to use leisure spending as a kind of emotional therapy.

For example, we know a number of families with disabled children that have incurred significant amounts of debt to fund vacations. It is understandable to want nice vacations to relieve emotional stress. However, taking on a great deal of debt can, over time, result in financial stress. Left unchecked, elevated stress levels can–and have–caused families to break-up. This is not to say that vacations are not important; they are very important, but they do not need be expensive to reduce emotional stress.

One way to reduce overall stress levels is to avoid financial stress altogether, to the extent possible. This can be accomplished, for example, through the use of a monthly expense list. Such a list should reflect all known or expected expenses such as: non-covered medical expense allowances, rent or mortgage payments, food expenses, utility expenses, clothes allowances, credit card expenses, etc. And it should also reflect scheduled savings for leisure goods such as vacations.

Tracking monthly expenses against a formal list like this can help to control non-essential spending when money is not readily available to fund it. It can also help to fund leisure-related spending by explicitly saving for it.

Disabilities are emotionally stressful, and they can also be financially stressful. Personal expense management may not resolve all disability-related financial issues, but it can help to prevent such issues.

By Joseph Calandro, Jr.

Here is a list of the most frequent birth defects, as well as related materials:   Act Now