If you ask Americans what they fear most, you’ll get a variety of answers ranging from the logical to the implausible, the phobic to the impossible.


Arguably the two things Americans fear most meet at one very distinct and undeniable intersection. When we get to our core truths, we fear for our physical and financial safety above all other things. Our ability to live and breathe and afford to live and breathe are #1 and #2 in a U.S. citizen’s personal fear rankings.


In America, if you are harmed physically you are almost guaranteed to be harmed financially. There are very few exceptions to this rule, as there is no such thing as perfect health insurance coverage or disability benefits. The fiscal ramifications depend on a host of variables including the type/length of the medical event, the level/breadth of health insurance coverage you could afford, how well versed you are at navigating the healthcare system, your ability to negotiate healthcare pricing, how honest/honorable your providers/insurers are, the ongoing nature of your illness, and what affect the medical event had on your ability to earn income.


Unlike other first world countries where medical services are covered either entirely or largely by the government, American citizens are much more exposed to the thieves of fate. The largest misconception we have as a nation is that somehow our economic standing or our professional position or our brainpower makes us immune to financial ruin.   This is patently false.   Really smart people get sick and find themselves lost in a sea of debt. Well off Americans can lose everything because of a medical event. The #1 reason for bankruptcy in the United States is medical bill related, with most claiming to have had insurance.


The odds of you or someone you love losing some or all of their assets because of a health related issue are painfully high. If it didn’t sound truly absurd, I’d say the risk is about 100%. The odds that you will die before your time if you cannot afford quality care in a state that doesn’t support all citizens’ access to qualify care are quite good. That is not a political stance but a pathetic statistical fact.


The major issue with fear is that it takes over brain space. We compromise our intellectual function when we are in a state of fear. The fight or flight response, regardless of option, causes a loss of objectivity. In the healthcare space, it is imperative that we recognize our fears and overcome them as best we can.


To be successful within healthcare in America today, we must empower ourselves. We cannot afford to be reactive with a $2.8 trillion dollar industry that profits from consumers’ inaction, misunderstanding and trust. Instead, consumers must take the reins of their healthcare provider and insurer relationships and lead.


Have an individual, family or small business policy? Call every month to your insurer, take down the name and the ID number of the person with whom you speak and get confirmation that your policy is active. There are two ways to cancel ACA backed policies – non-payment or incorrect information. Make certain your policy is in good working order.


Going to the doctor? Call ahead and ask for a pricing estimate for services. Confirm the doctor (and all with whom you will come in contact) is in your network if you are part of a PPO plan. Request that all forms are sent to you in advance so that you can take the time necessary to successfully complete them. Amend the part of any document that claims you will pay for everything the insurance company doesn’t cover.


There are a myriad of ways that consumers can and must protect themselves. Unfortunately, there is no way an average person will know every single obstacle or financial land mine. Still, if we at least attempt to act rather than wait, our chances of surviving the next medical event vastly improve.