Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
United Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
Every parent knows that raising a child is one of life’s most fulfilling challenges. But if your child has a chronic illness, condition, or disability, your role takes on an even greater purpose. You are more than a loving parent — you’re also your child’s primary health advocate.
Although the emotional price of raising a seriously ill child can be devastating, it’s only part of the picture. Even during this difficult time, you have to consider the financial implications of your child’s illness.
Some parents become overwhelmed by medical expenses or are blindsided by unexpected bills and additional fees. Even wealthier families can find themselves on the brink of financial free-fall when medical expenses pile up.
Even so, maintaining your family’s financial health is not impossible. With organization and careful planning, you can learn to manage your money during a medical crisis.
The costs of long-term health care can be staggering, and families don’t always deal with them until they’re hit with the first bill or explanation of benefits that they don’t understand. “When you’re faced with a child with as many medical complications as our son, we were just worried about having him breathe every day and the last thing we thought about were the bills,” explains Carol, whose son Dylan has spina bifida.
Some parents may think that insurance will cover all or most of their child’s medical expenses — or that being able to afford their child’s health care needs won’t be a problem. But each medical service comes with its own price tag, and parents are often shocked to learn that hospital care, surgical procedures, doctor visits, and laboratory tests are separate services with separate bills. “Financially, it was a disaster coming. Her first hospital bill, not including surgery and anesthesia, was $308,000,” says Kellie, whose daughter has a serious disability. Even the typical 10% co-pay can consume a family’s financial reserves.
Some parents may overlook costs that are indirectly related to their child’s care — costs that can quickly add up. These include missed time at work, childcare for siblings, increased utility bills, custom transportation, and home renovations, such as ramps for wheelchair accessibility.
There are ways to handle these costs, but you need information to find your way through the health care system.
The best way to make sense of bills and prevent financial problems is to take a proactive stance. Learn all you can about your health plan.
Just as you want to know as much as possible about your child’s health, you should learn as much as you can about your insurance policy. Which doctors participate in your plan? What services are covered?
Learn the meaning of insurance language, such as:
Understanding your health plan’s design and its policies can ultimately save you thousands of dollars.
It can be useful to get a written copy of your policy from the insurer. Although you may have an enrollment information book from your employer, the actual policy provides specific details about your coverage. If your insurance company has a website, you should check it out for additional information.
Policies and bills can be confusing, but help is available. These simple steps can help you avoid problems:
Families may struggle to meet new expenses, particularly if one parent must stop working to care for a child. Regular monthly bills may be put aside or ignored. Debt begins to grow, and a family that has maintained a comfortable lifestyle can find itself headed for trouble.
If the following questions seem all too familiar, it’s time to seek help:
Procrastination can be your worst enemy. Ignoring financial obligations now can lead to even greater problems later, like bankruptcy, loss of assets, and a bad credit record — all of which can affect the entire family.
Instead of putting things off, communicate your problem as early as possible to the appropriate person or office.
It’s vital that you stay in regular contact with the people on the other end of your bills. As soon as possible, call doctors’ offices, billing departments, hospital business offices, creditors, and lending institutions to explain the change in your family’s situation. Most people are willing to work with you, but they won’t know that you need help unless you tell them.
Some offices may ask you to “put it in writing.” Most doctors or hospital social workers are happy to write a letter on your behalf, explaining why more time is needed to pay a bill or to appeal an insurance company decision.
Creditors can be lenient — arranging payment schedules, accepting partial payments, and so on — but they need to hear from you. Even if you can only make a portion of a payment, it will show an attempt to keep up your side of the obligation.
Parents who have gone through this process advise that you:
Few people get through a catastrophic illness without needing help of some kind. You may find it hard to put aside your pride and ask for help, but family and friends usually take genuine pleasure in helping out.
Make use of your case manager, particularly in understanding bills and making sense of paperwork. Remember to update your case manager with new information and stay in frequent contact. Hospital business offices can be valuable, too, interpreting bills, estimating costs, or contacting your insurance company on your behalf.
Compare notes with other families who have dealt with catastrophic health issues. Their efforts may save you time and energy, and many parents appreciate the support of those who have experienced similar problems.
Short- and long-term financial assistance is also available from various sources, including private as well as government agencies. You may be surprised by the services available and the enthusiasm with which others embrace your needs.
Explore these private organizations:
Although not all provide financial aid, they may be able to direct you to other sources and services.
Government organizations also can assist in the medical and related care of your child. You don’t need to be at poverty level to qualify; you may, in fact, be eligible for programs you never knew existed. Two such government programs that supplement the health insurance of a chronically or seriously ill child are Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). As you research various avenues of assistance, ask your case manager about these and other options.
You can also take advantage of free financial advice and support offered by national agencies like the Consolidated Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). The CCCS provides certified financial counselors who help families examine their financial picture and overcome debt. They can negotiate with creditors on your behalf for lower payments, reduced interest rates, and forgiveness of late charges or penalties. You may choose to enroll in their formal debt management program, in which case you would send one payment per month to the CCCS office, which then prorates and disburses your payments to creditors.
The bottom line, though, is that even as you seek financial assistance, you will need to reduce your expenses.
To ensure financial stability, you must learn to cut your expenses by making lifestyle changes. When you have a sick child, your priorities will shift. Going out to dinner a few times a month may no longer be in your budget; paying the electric bill has to be.
You may find it helpful to compare monthly costs against your income, then eliminate any expenses that aren’t completely necessary. Other tips:
By making a conscious decision to reduce spending, acting early, asking questions, and learning how to find and accept help, you can protect your family’s future.
Because EHRs improve how well your doctors talk to each other and coordinate your treatment, they can enhance your medical care. Get the facts on electronic health records.
Visit our center on managing your medical care for advice on how to get involved in taking charge of your health and choosing the right health care providers.
Taking charge of your own health care is a big step, and it can be a little overwhelming. Here’s a quick crash course on insurance for teens.
Health insurance has a language all its own. This article for teens explains what some key terms mean.
Help your teen or young adult make the transition from pediatric health care to adult health care. Get tips on finding a new doctor and getting health insurance.
Parents are likely to be stressed when a child is hospitalized, and questions about the people providing medical care and what roles they play can add to the confusion. Our guide can help.
Many health institutions digitally store their patients’ health information. Learn about electronic health records (EHRs) and how they can improve health care.
If you need mental health care but don’t think you can afford it, you’re not alone. Get tips on finding low-cost or free mental health care in this article for teens.
The government’s healthcare marketplace, or exchange, is the new way to shop for health insurance. But just how do you find the best coverage and sign up? Get answers here.
Good preparation can help your child feel less anxious about getting surgery. Kids of all ages cope much better if they have an idea of what’s going to happen and why.
When kids need intensive health care after they’re discharged from the hospital, it’s important that family and caregivers learn about the devices, equipment, and support they’ll need.
Finding coverage for your kids may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Many kids are eligible for government or community programs, even if their parents work. Learn what resources are available to your family.
Taking care of a chronically ill child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks a parent can face. But support groups, social workers, and family friends often can help.
Involving teens in their health care can help prepare them for managing it on their own as adults.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.