Just Take Care of Your Wife

Robert says his wife was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. She did not have health insurance, so the bills are mounting. Dave advises Robert to wait to deal with the bills.

QUESTION: Robert in Nashville says his wife was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, and they’ve lost her income. She did not have health insurance, so the bills are mounting. They don’t have life insurance on her either. Robert makes $50,000 a year. Dave advises Robert to wait until he’s on the other side of this to deal with the bills.

ANSWER: To start with, I don’t know if I could breathe, and I’m trying to breathe right now just hearing your story. Once you get past that, then you figure out a way to put one foot in front of the other. I think the financial problem that is associated with this is way down my list of things to worry about. That’s what I first come up with.

Let’s keep food on the table, lights, water, and shelter—basic necessities of life is all—and I don’t know what’s going to happen with these medical bills, but there’s going to be a bunch of them. I’m just going to let them pile up. That’s way down the list of things to sweat right now. I’m going to spend time with her. I’m going to spend time as she goes through whatever treatments they attempt and those kinds of things. I’m going to walk with that whole process. When she is all better someday, we’ll work on this. If she’s in Heaven someday, we’ll work on this. But you’re going to have a pile of bills.

What the numbers might sound like, as an example, is you owe $500,000 and you make $50,000. If you don’t get some pretty substantial mercy from these people when you decide to address it—and I’m not addressing it today, by the way, I’m going to wait until we’re on the other side of this, whatever that means… Just let them pile up. There’s not anything you can do about it. You can’t pay $200,000 with $50,000.

You need to take care of her. That means the lights and the water and whatever basic things that you do need to pay for to keep the treatment and the physical comfort and spiritual comfort and those kinds of things. That’s where I’m going to pour all of my energy, and I’m going to just get a box in the corner and just throw them all in there when they come in. Label that box, “I’m going to deal with you someday.” You really mathematically can’t today anyway even if you were ready to emotionally and had the time on your hands and it was a priority.

I want, as a financial counselor, to give you permission to do nothing with those bills today. There are one of two things that happens at the financial end of this story. Someday, when she’s healed or when she’s in Heaven, you’re going to get that box out and you’re going to look at it and start calling those creditors and try to get some mercy from them. You’re going to go sit down with the hospital and try to get some mercy. If you can get those bills written off or written down to where you literally could pay a little something out of your income and one of them doesn’t sue you or force you into the corner with a gun in your face so to speak, then maybe you work your way out of this. Or our worst-case scenario financially is you can’t do anything, you owe $750,000, no one will cut you a deal, and you make $50,000. Not having health insurance has then bankrupted you. That’s where this might turn out.

Listen, one more time, let me say this out loud. Let’s pretend you’re going to go bankrupt. That’s your worst-case scenario financially. That doesn’t even show up on your radar right now. You’ve got bigger fish to fry. Kind of like, “Who gives a rip? My wife has stage IV lung cancer. I’ve got credit card debt. Choose one that’s important.” A, and B can wait.

As you get to the point where you feel like you need to address this and want to try to work your way out of it whatever happens, just give us a yell. We know how to work these things with these collectors and people, and we’ll help you walk through this at that time. For today, my answer is I just want to give you permission to love your wife and not worry about this junk today.