Monday, December 24, 2012


If, God willing, we do not need to make an emergency year-end run to Philadelphia, we have our travel mileage total:  14,701 miles specifically limited to medical travel alone.  Almost fifteen THOUSAND miles.  That's a whole lot of highway and byway by the way.

I did some math.  We could have driven to my Aunt's in Sacremento, and back.  Almost three times.   We could have driven to my sister-in-law in Tampa Florida - SIX times.  We could have mixed it up:  One trip to Sacremento, two to Tampa, and two to Disney's Magic Kingdom.  Or hey - we have friends in Austin!  We could go there.  California.  Tampa.  AND Magic Kingdom, and have some miles leftover.

You get the idea.  We did a LOT of driving.  I haven't calculated the tolls paid, but at roughly $24/Philly trip, with (I think) 34 trips, that's $816.  The medical mileage allowance is $0.23/mile, so that's $3381.23.  Add those to our uncovered medical expenses and we might maybe qualify for a medical deduction.

I'm sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating:  In order to qualify for a medical expense deduction, you have to spend AT LEAST 10% of your taxable income.  And you don't deduct the entire amount.  You deduct however much you spent OVER the 10%. 

Suppose you make $50,000 a year, taxable.  You spend $6000 on uncovered medical expenses.  Ten percent of your income is $5000.  $6000 minus $5000 is $1000.   That's your deduction - you'll get an extra $1000 on your tax return to throw at your $6000 bill.  And while you can include things like hotels (which we thankfully never needed) you cannot include the restaurant meals (which are FAR more expensive than what we would have made at home!). What this means is that every family in America should have an emergency account set aside in case of medical disaster at least equal to $10 of your taxable income.  And, in my opinion, that would be in ADDITION to the six-months'-worth-of-expenses emergency account that the money-management gurus say everybody is supposed to keep on hand anyway.  Everybody should have a disability policy to help cover lost income. Very few people I know have either expense pool saved, and almost no one I know has a private disability policy  We were lucky - we did, and we needed all three.  And now we have neither savings account and have to start over (which we have, but it's a slow process!).  True, we were hit with three medical disasters in less than two years, and that emergency bathroom gutting put us back a bit! 

One of the things I understand very well from serving the working poor is that most people are only one injury or illness away from abject poverty.  I have seen, many, many times over the years, how that one illness can put people behind on their rent or mortgage, leaving them homeless.  How people have to choose between food and rent while medical bills pile up.  I've seen homeowners go from mortgage-free to underwater to try to finance medical expenses.  I've seen people choose to stop treating their blood pressure and diabetes because they have no insurance are are ashamed to ask for help, or admit they need it - until they have a stroke or go into kidney failure and have no remaining options.  When you've finally lost everything, then the government will step in and help.  But you have to have lost EVERYTHING.

We are the lucky ones, as luck goes.  We have supportive friends who have kicked in over and over and over (and over and OVER) again when we needed a boost.  We had savings, and disability insurance.  We've kept up with the mortgage and the credit cards are clear.  Babygirl got a kidney, while so many are still waiting.  We've come a long way, and traveled safely.

And that isn't all about the miles.


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