Tips to avoid medical debt while you're still healthy

MELVILLE (WABC) -- Lynn Gergen, of Lido Beach, has been through a lot, including two mastectomies and a partial hysterectomy.

"I consider myself very, very lucky," she said.

But what she doesn't consider lucky is what happened to her yearly medical expenses, which went from $3,000 a year to nearly $12,000.

"I wish that when I was working and making my big bucks, which I was," she said. "I mean, not a fortune, but I was making decent money, that I didn't say, 'Oh, I've got money, I can go out and I can get this for the kids,' or 'I could do that.' I wish I had taken more than half of that and put it away, and said I don't have to."

That's exactly what financial experts advise people to do when they're healthy -- save and keep your debt under control.

The last thing you're going to want to deal with when you're battling a serious illness, they say, is worrying about money.

You could also consider getting insurance for your credit cards and mortgage. And know what you have.

"Understand your insurance," said Leslie Tayne, of Tayne Law Group. "Don't just take it, understand what it covers and what it doesn't."

Financial experts recommend preparing a budget while you're healthy, know what comes in and out of your house, and what your living expense are. So if you spend $500 a month on living expenses, experts say you should put six to nine months worth of that money away in the bank.

"Let's say the treatment for whatever you've been diagnosed with or a family member has been diagnosed with is in another state," Tayne said. "You need to have cash on hand to be able to travel, spend the money, get a hotel, see the doctors, pay the bills."

And if you do unfortunately get diagnosed with a serious illness, call your creditors and let them know.

"Is there a program or is there something that they can offer you to give you some relief for making those payments during this time?" Tayne said.

And if you really fall behind, reach out to a reputable debt relief attorney, like Gergen did.
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