But unexpected medical emergencies can happen to anyone at any time, and few people are prepared for the expenses that accompany them. Financial experts often recommend building an emergency fund consisting of six months of salary, but few people can achieve that in these difficult economic times.
'One way to prepare for a significant health event is to consider supplemental insurance, a policy that can be bought in addition to your major medical plan,' says Scott Krienke of Assurant Health, a Milwaukee-based insurer. 'These plans can be used to pay out-of-pocket costs not covered by major medical, as well as non-medical costs related to an injury or illness.'
Supplemental plans generally pay cash directly to the consumer. The money can be used however the customer chooses, whether it's for day-to-day costs like child care or lost wages, or medical expenses not covered by a major medical policy such as deductibles, co-insurance or experimental/alternative treatments.
While most people may not want to believe they'll ever experience a critical illness, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that heart disease is the nation's No. 1 killer, followed by cancer. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, followed by accidents.
Supplemental insurance plans are available for specific critical illnesses, such as heart, stroke and cancer, and offer a range of benefit levels to fit different needs and budgets. Critical illness supplemental plans pay upon life-threatening diagnosis to help offset expenses.
Supplemental plans for accidents also can be a helpful add-on to a major medical plan. The cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with motor vehicle crash injuries was over $99 billion in the U.S. in 2010, according to the CDC.
There are two types of accident plans: accident fixed-benefit and accident medical expense. Accident fixed-benefit plans pay a set amount for treatment of covered injuries due to an accident.They pay in addition to any other plan benefits in place, and the cash can be used for whatever the policyholder wants - to replace lost income, pay medical bills or take care of household expenses. Accident medical expense plans help pay out-of-pocket medical costs that are not covered by other plans.
There also are supplemental plans available for dental care.
'Dental needs may not be covered for adults on major medical insurance, but it can be purchased individually,' Krienke said. 'At Assurant Health, our dental plans have no waiting periods for preventive or basic services, and there is no penalty for going out of network. That's important, because approximately 55 percent of dentists don't participate in networks."
Taking the time to research plans is important in order to select the right supplemental insurance to protect yourself and your family in the face of a medical emergency.
Choose options that fit your unique needs and your budget, and you'll be better equipped to weather a sudden illness or accident. No matter how the health care market might change, people will continue to have out-of-pocket costs for items not covered by major medical insurance, and supplemental plans are one way to cover those unexpected expenses.