Yesterday, my husband went for his consultation with the knee doctor. He had to drive 2.5 hours to get there (the doctor is considered one of the best in the world, but the only downfall is that it’s quite a drive. But compared with all the people who fly to see him, we’re not doing so badly to have to drive a few hours). He left the house at 6:30 am and got home at 8pm, so it was quite a day. They did x-rays and an MRI, and have determined that they definitely need to do surgery on one knee, possibly on the other as well – lots of issues.
When they did the MRI, they required payment upfront. They hadn’t mentioned anything about that when he scheduled the appointment. They had told him what kind of clothes to wear (shorts, with no metal in them) for the MRI, but nothing about payment up front. They’re on our insurance network, and typically providers bill the insurance and then send the patient a bill a few weeks later for the deductible amount. Our deductible is $3000, and the MRI cost about $1200 (our insurance company’s rate). But this doctor’s office just ran the numbers right there, determined what portion the insurance would pay (zero, since we haven’t met the deductible yet), determined the insurance rate for the MRI, submitted it as an expense to our insurance so that it would get counted towards the deductible, and then asked for payment. Good thing we always carry a credit card. I’m a big fan of credit cards. We have one personal card and one business card (plus the AmEx that we only use at Costco, so I’m not counting it). We pay them off every month, so we don’t pay interest. In this situation, we have the money to pay for the MRI, it’s in our HSA. But to access that money, we have to call the HSA and have them initiate a balance transfer to our checking account. The money shows up in the checking account in a few days.
Since this doctor’s office had a bit of an unorthodox billing method (upfront payment from patients with insurance), we would have been in a pickle without a credit card. As it is, my husband just put it on the card, and then today we’ll call the HSA and have the money transfered to our checking account. Then when the credit card bill gets here, we’ll just pay it off.
Having a credit card and still spending less than you earn takes discipline. But it also offers a safety net in unforeseen situations. I’d rather force myself to have discipline on a day to day basis with our card, and always know that it’s there in my wallet if I need it.