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Supplemental Accident Insurance

Supplemental Accident Insurance plans don’t cover regular medical bills like routine screenings, vaccinations, or office visits. They’re intended to help you with the out-of-pocket expenses incurred from an unexpected accident.

Many people think that accident insurance is only for people who are really into extreme rock climbing in the Patagonias or spelunking adventures in Malaysia. They believe their regular health insurance will take care of their basic medical needs and any emergencies that arise. After all, that’s what health insurance is for, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. Accidents happen more often than we like to believe, and in some emergency situations, your regular medical insurance won’t be enough to save you from extremely high out-of-pocket expenses.

Children’s Sports Injuries

Do your children play sports? While team sports are enriching, fulfilling activities, they can also be dangerous. Football and soccer, for instance, put your child at risk for concussion, an increasingly common problem among kids ages 8 to 13. The advocacy group Head Case reports that 3,800,000 concussions were reported in 2012 — double the number from 2002. And, of sports concussions, 33% happened at practice! One second you could be watching proudly from the sidelines, and the next, you could find yourself in an ambulance with your child, headed for the ER.

Hospital Confinement

Then there are hospital stays, one of the most expensive forms of healthcare. The Agency for Health Research and Quality reports that aggregate costs of a hospital stay across the U.S. were $377.5 billion in 2012. The average cost of a hospital stay involving surgery in 2012 was $21,200, and even regular medical stays were more than $8,000. So let’s take that sports accident we discussed above: what if it requires surgery? What if your child has injuries that require a lengthy hospital stay? How quickly will those bills add up?

In cases like these, you may be on the hook for a very high deductible or for other out-of-pocket expenses that add up quickly, even if you have good health insurance. Some popular high-deductible health insurance plans charge you thousands of dollars before they’ll begin paying for your healthcare bills or your medications. If you have to pay all of it at once, your finances may take a big hit.

Out-of-Network Providers

It’s very difficult to predict the full cost of an emergency accident beforehand, and not just because the doctors aren’t sure what tests or procedures you’ll need. Healthcare providers who contract with emergency departments complicate the story. The New York Times reported in 2014 that “more and more, doctors who work in emergency rooms are private contractors who are out of network or do not accept any insurance plans.” So these providers may be out-of-network for you, even if the hospital you visit is in-network, and that could make them very expensive.

In normal healthcare situations, you’d shop around until you found an in-network doctor you could afford. But after a major accident, you’re in no shape to cherry-pick an ER doctor. You may not even be conscious to do so! You usually don’t have the time or the means in a healthcare emergency to make sure your provider won’t present you with a bill too large for you to pay.

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