A Wall of Frustration


Many federal employees and their dependents may be anxious about paying their medical bills.

One of the roles in my life was being a federal employee. With current conditions and many of my peers having to go to work without pay, it would not be unreasonable to believe that many individuals are experiencing increased feelings of frustration, fear, anxiety and anger. Putting all political beliefs and differences aside, I have been thinking about fellow peers with medical conditions like cancer and the choices they may need to begin making between paying bills and putting food on the table, possibly wondering if they can afford to pay for important medications and treatments.

With it being the beginning of a new year, unfortunately co-payments are often higher as annual deductibles have not been met. It would be a shame to think individuals may be considering skipping on medications or treatments due to the financial expense. I feel fortunate that I am not currently in this situation, or am I? I was taught years ago to have an emergency fund I can draw from, but should weeks drag into months, what is the impact on myself and others? I can pay myself back once I finally receive a paycheck for work being performed without pay, but I am finding many are not in this position. I have considered a few tips to help with potential ideas for coping during what are stressful and uncertain times.

Some insurance plans such as mine with BCBS Federal have an annual health assessment. It would be a good idea to complete this assessment for all eligible family members now. The results of the assessment will, in many cases, deposit money onto a wellness card which can be used on prescriptions and appointments to help meet the co-payment or deductible for a visit. The amount begins with $50.00 just for completing the assessment and you can earn more if you implement a wellness plan and log progress.

If concerned about running out of medications, I would highly encourage individuals to contact pharmaceutical companies directly and ask if they offer a co-payment assistance program. It is possible that financial assistance may be available, or reduced deductibles might be considered. I have personally benefited from programs that help with the medication deductibles. In one case, my co-payment was waived. I have also received coupons for medications from my doctors for the co-payment, but other times I have just called the companies directly if it was a brand name prescription with a high co-payment. Worst case scenario, you lose nothing by asking. It may also help to contact a social worker to allow them to also advocate on your behalf for any waivers or delayed billing which might currently be available.

If you pre-planned and purchased a disability or cancer policy prior to a diagnosis, now is the time to truly benefit from that plan, as many pay you back for eligible medical treatments outlined in the contract. They may also provide an extra money for days in the hospital or while receiving other treatments and procedures. Don’t forget to at least call and see if you have been missing out on covered benefits. By checking on the terms of my own policy, I just learned that I had eligible procedures that I can go back and claim for reimbursement for during the time my policy was active.

If feeling stressed, reach out to the Federal Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This program is free to covered federal employees and eligible family members who may also be feeling stressed or anxious during these uncertain times. EAP is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. A contact number is 800-222-0364. A little-known fact about EAP is they can also not only help with personal counseling, but they may be able to help address financial concerns. I would hope that more individuals or eligible family members reach out for positive support during this time to help address personal wellbeing.

In my area, farmers are helping to distribute locally grown food. I can recall years ago after a hurricane my neighbors and I shared food with each other. If it wasn’t shared, items would have expired before a single family could have consumed all the perishable items. You might also want to consider reaching out and networking with fellow co-workers to help one another if possible. Maybe this experience will remind some of us of the importance of coming together in times of need. Normally work leads to a paycheck, but hundreds of thousands of workers are currently without pay and some are having to make difficult decisions when it comes to their finances.

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