(Financial) Stress Free Surgery

I’ve written before about Managing Someone Else’s Money, namely, my mother-in-law’s. Her financial story is a key component to our financial story.

She moved in with us in late 2008 because she could no longer afford to pay her bills, her late fees and overdraft charges, and still eat. Without the late fees and overdraft charges, she had enough money for her bills, but she was no longer capable of handling her money. We took over.

One of the things we did was transfer some (not all) of her high interest date- think 20% APR –to our low interest card at 5.9% APR. The money to pay off the balance came from her, and it got paid of considerably quicker than it otherwise would have.

However, living with her was not something any of us enjoyed, and by late April 2009, we were looking to take over the debt we’d transferred to our card so that she could afford to pay rent and move out.

Then, right after Mothers’ Day weekend in 2009, C was laid off. We could no longer afford to absorb MIL’s debt. We could barely afford to continue to let her live with us rent free, but emotionally, we needed her to be able to move out of our house more than we needed extra spending money.

By January 2010, all of the MIL’s debts, besides her HELOC were paid off, and that was on a payment plan that would prevent a final major balloon payment. We moved her in to senior housing (not assisted living, but an age restricted apartment complex).


While managing another person’s money is stressful- I’m apparently really good at it. (It’s easier to be objective when it’s not your own wants you’re denying.) Now that she doesn’t have a couple hundred in bank fees each month, or any credit card debt, even her fixed income is considerably more than she needs. So much more that her social security is direct deposited into an account at a different institution than the rest of her money. It sits in an account even I rarely look at. MIL doesn’t even really know it’s there, so not only can’t spend it, she doesn’t know that she would want to spend it.

This has allowed us to build her up a very substantial medical fund. I’d call it an emergency fund, and it could certainly function as that if needed, but we have always had plans for that money.

First and foremost, knee surgery. At the end of October, she had total knee replacement surgery. She was in the hospital 3 days and then transferred to a skilled nursing facility to undergo physical therapy before she can be released to go back home.

Given that she had been dragging her bad leg around, not really walking on it, for over 6 months (the drama of finding a surgeon willing to do the operation, and then getting that scheduled took around 5 months), her muscles are in bad shape and it is taking longer to get her to the point where she can go home than was originally expected. (Well, expected by the medical staff. It’s playing out exactly as C and I expected.)


Why am I telling you this? Well, because it led to a little victory the other day. The care facility called C to find out if he wanted their help getting her signed up for Medicaid. C told them no, she wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid. (Besides her disability income, she receives rent on the condo she still owns, the one with the HELOC.) There was then apparently a pause, followed by the cautious statement that C knew she would have a co-pay for the facility, right.

The fact is, her max co-pay for the facility will be $3,500 (if she’s there for 44 days or more). I had pulled $6,000 out of her medical fund the same week she had surgery in order to pay the bills as they came in. She has more than that still sitting in the account, and every month, more is added with her SSD disbursement.

It felt really good for C to be able to tell the facility that yes, we knew there was a co-pay, and that no, there wasn’t going to be any issues paying for it.

Now, if for some reason she has to stay at the facility for more than 100 days (we’re currently at about 25 days), there might be a problem. But until then, we’ve got this covered.

And trust me, with all the stress that’s gone on around the medical aspects of this surgery, not having to stress the finances is heavenly.


EDITED TO ADD: Not related to this post at all, but I thought I’d show you what pitiful looks like. (She’s curled up in the crook of C’s arm while he plays Skyrim.)