Health insurance gives us a sense of reassurance when we’re parents, especially as our kids grow and interact with the world around them.
If they’re injured, we know that our plan will cover major medical expenses. What we don’t often think of, though, are how the secondary costs of an injury impact our lives.
Many common childhood injuries, from broken bones to concussions, require parents to take time off work to care for their recovering kid. Travel expenses, deductibles and co-pays add up, and some families find they need to retrofit their homes or temporarily relocate to accommodate their child, whether he’s on crutches, in a wheelchair or requires safety handrails for the duration of his recovery.
Case Study #1: Michael Eagle
Mike Eagle was 10 when he broke his left ankle and right leg while on a hike with his dad, uncle, and cousins. The kids had been scrambling up loose rock on the side of the trail, and Mike’s feet got tangled in the “scree” rock and he fell.
“It was a freak accident,” said his dad Markus. “Apparently, scree is a major hazard for hikers, but it’s everywhere. It attracts kids like magnets.”
Even though their day hike was on the outskirts of a major city, Mike’s injuries required a rescue helicopter to bring him down off the trail, and an ambulance ride to the hospital.
Michael’s parents’ used their accidental injury coverage to help with the expenses incurred by the helicopter trip, and since Mike needed a wheelchair for several weeks, the family had to install a temporary ramp on their front porch. “Fortunately, our house is single-level, but we still had to add hand-rails to the shower and buy a shower chair. There was no way Mike was going to let us help him bathe at his age.”
Michael’s mom, Janney, praised their accidental injury insurance for covering gaps they hadn’t foreseen. “We have excellent private insurance, and paid family leave, but the rescue chopper and all the other little expenses could have broken us.”
Case Study #2: Sarah Lancaster
It wasn’t too long ago when doctors simply told parents to keep an eye on a child with a concussion for the first 24 hours, with not much follow-up afterward. Now, we know that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) require a great deal of caution for several weeks following an accident.
Sarah Lancaster, 6, hadn’t been wearing a helmet when she fell off her brother’s skateboard. She’d just been trying it out, wanting to impress the “big kids.”
“She was on varying degrees of ‘brain rest‘ for six weeks,” said her mother, Maria. “That means no books, TV or tablets.” Here, Maria paused with a somber look. “Just think about that for a moment.”
Maria didn’t have paid time off from work, and her accidental injury insurance covered living expenses for the two weeks she stayed home with her daughter. “It was tough keeping her entertained, and she’s not the kind of kid who likes to sit still,” Maria said. “Sarah’s Dad was on a contract in the Bakken fields and couldn’t get away, so we used some of the money to fly my Mom out for backup so I could do other stuff around the house, like help the boys with their stuff or just take a break. At Sarah’s age, she needed constant supervision, and I couldn’t have done it alone.”
As parents, we know that our kids need to take risks and make mistakes to learn and grow. It’s up to us to warn them of known hazards, teach them about safety and trust that they’ll make the best decisions they can, but even so, accidents happen. Short of bubble-wrapping our kids or duct-taping them to the floor, the only thing we can do is to make choices that provide us with options when life’s surprises threaten our finances and security.