This summer we experienced our first and our second ER visits for the kids. Unfortunately, it was the same kid who experienced both accidents!
Our oldest crashed his dirt bike in May and required stitches under his chin by his neck.
Then in August he was running in our yard with friends during a BBQ we were having, and fell and broke both bones in his arm.
Disclosure: I am not a health insurance or healthcare coverage professional. This post contains information specific to our own families experience and should not be used as advice or promise of anything in any way. Always research options available to you specific to your own needs and situation before making any final decisions. This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure page for more info.
K is a busy kid, he loves being busy outside, climbing trees, riding his bicycle and his dirt bike, and doing anything he can challenge himself with. He’s adventurous and doesn’t have a whole lot of fear, so it wasn’t too surprising to us that he was the one who was in the back seat of my car on the way to the ER each time.
What was surprising, was how differently our financial situation ended up being with each visit.
When K crashed the dirt bike and ended up needing stitches, it was in the early evening, and walk-in clinics were closing just as we got to town. We tried the pharmacy to see if they had anything that would keep the cut closed, but they referred us to the ER after seeing how deep it was.
K is terrified of needles, so a trip to the ER was really hard on him. He ended up getting very agitated, and after a failed attempt at using laughing gas to calm him down, they ended up giving him a shot to put him to sleep to stitch him up.
After 5hrs, 2 doctors, 3 nurses, a failed laughing gas attempt, the shot to put him to sleep, and stitches, we walked out of the ER thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was.
Walking out of that hospital, I was also worried what the bill would be. We had health insurance, but we each had a $6500 deductible, and K hadn’t met his. I figured we’d be paying out of pocket for most if not all of the bill.
At the time, we were paying $1,200 per month for our premiums. We had a $6,500 deductible for each of us, or a $12,900 deductible for the family. Each time we were going to the clinic we were still paying for the majority of the bills, on top of paying the deductible. It was a lot of money, and with 3 kids and living in Minnesota, we were finding ourselves in the clinic with sick kids and paying the majority of the bills out of pocket.
Our bill for his ER visit and stitches ended up coming to just over $1,200. We were fortunate that we had an emergency fund saved up, and we were able to pay it off.
When K got into his dirt bike accident, I had a friend at church ask how I was doing and mention how stressed I looked. I told her about his accident and my concern of the cost of his medical bills. She told me about Christian Healthcare Ministries and said it sounded like the perfect thing for our family.
I went home and looked them up online, called and asked a list of questions specific to our families situation, and we chose to make the switch.
It is important to note that when we switched in May we were able to drop our health insurance because my husbands work who we had insurance through was switching health insurance companies. Had they not chosen to do that, we would have had to wait until open enrollment to drop our insurance and enroll in Christian Healthcare Ministries.
So now we were a family of 5 without health insurance, but rather with healthcare coverage through a healthcare sharing group. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant at all to make this switch, but after researching it and prayer, we decided that it was the right thing for our family.
We chose the highest level of coverage which costs us $450 per month for the whole family, plus we took out catastrophic event coverage which is about another $90 per quarter for all of us combined. The money we were saving on premiums we started to put away for emergencies. (roughly $9,000/year for our family.)
In August, we had a BBQ with friends and family at our house. The grilling was just getting done and I heard K crying and saw him running to me from across the yard. He was holding his arm and clearly upset.
When he got to the shop and I saw his arm, it was clearly bent where it should not bend… and I knew it was broken. So off to the ER we went, with grandma in the backseat keeping K calm.
This experience was similar to when K had stitches in a lot of ways, and in some ways it was obviously different. K had x-rays to confirm the break, during which they saw both bones were broke and they determined it needed to be set by an orthopedic surgeon. K had to be put to sleep for them to set it.
In the end we had 4hrs in the ER, 3 doctors, 3 nurses, laughing gas, an IV and meds to put him to sleep, lots of x-rays, first to confirm the break and more while they set it, a cast, and a prescription for pain medication.
I walked out of this with uncertainty, not sure how our new healthcare coverage was going to work out, but we felt confident that they would help us as best they could.
That night K didn’t sleep very well, he was in a lot of pain and was uncomfortable and not used to his cast. I took him to get the prescription filled the next day, and our pharmacy applied a self-pay coupon to our account. What was going to be a $58.00 prescription cost me just under $19.00. So far, so good.
The following Monday I called CHM and told them what had happened. The kind woman on the phone reassured me that our bills for this incident would be covered 100%. All I had to do was make sure to fill out the paperwork from the CHM website and submit itemized bills from all our appointments, and we’d be reimbursed after our paperwork had been processed.
Our first bills came at the end of August, and I promptly filled out the paperwork and submitted it online through our CHM member portal. I was emailed reassuring me that the paperwork had been received and would be reviewed.
We had several follow-up appointments which each time included x-rays, and six weeks after his accident, K got his cast off. Another set of x-rays showed that his bones weren’t fully healed yet. They put him in a brace for another month, and scheduled us for x-rays 3 months later.
Each time we got a bill, I scanned it and submitted it as an add-on to our online account.
There were a few times I called CHM to ask questions, and each person I visited with reassured me that our hospital bills would be reimbursed 100%.
After everything, our hospital bills came to over $4,000. Since we are self-pay customers, our hospital discounted our bills by 50%, and some of the x-rays were discounted even more than that. Our portion of the bill that we are responsible for came to just over $2,100.
30 Days after our first bill arrived, the hospital requested payment. I called the billing department, set up a payment plan, and started making payments until our reimbursement check arrived. They had two payment plan options for me to choose from, and we chose the one that fit with our budget.
Today, we received our reimbursement check for the full amount of all of our hospital bills, minus the brace he was given after taking the cast off. Since the brace is not considered a life-saving device CHM didn’t cover the $18 that it cost. I’m not complaining.
The $19 that we paid for his prescription plus the $18 for the brace is a far cry from what it cost us out of pocket when we had health insurance and K needed stitches.
Comparing the two incidents side by side has really made an impact on me. I know that this is the right choice for our family and our situation. I have faith that we are covered if something happens. And I hope that if this is the right thing for others that this is shared with them.