There are many reasons why being the parent of a special needs child is difficult — not the least of which is paying for medical bills that could bankrupt you if they weren’t somehow defrayed. Fortunately, there are many resources out there for families who have special needs children. While the specific resources vary dramatically from one community (or even school) to another, here are some broad strokes that any special-needs family should be able to glean from.
Any sufficiently disabled child in the United States has access to a number of special medical programs. These programs include the obvious — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Disability — but offer a startling number of services through those few options. It’s up to each state precisely which programs are offered, so ask your state government for the relevant booklets and read up.
In the worst-case scenario, the Federal ‘nuclear option’ — declaring bankruptcy — will clear your child’s medical debts, albeit at an extreme cost.
Much like the above, each state runs its own medical-assistance programs, so asking an expert in the state government is often your best idea for accessing this information. The key is to ask about each of the major categories of resource individually: ask about grants, ask about loans, and ask about special needs trusts, and ask about insurance supplements or insurance replacement.
Surprisingly, there are a vast number of medical options for children in some locations — and in others, the can be quite a bit further away. Look up your local Area Agency on Aging for a decently comprehensive list of local charities, community organizations, and other location-specific programs that might be able to help you and yours get by.
Above and beyond all of that, many individual facilities have their own in-house programs — most often set up by philanthropic donors — to help the helpless get what they need. These kinds of programs are directed specifically toward special needs children with starting regularity, but at the same time, they’re rarely volunteered by the facility — you must ask about them to learn about them and implement them.
Interestingly, one of the more recent developments in medical bill ‘wars’ is the appearance of paid ‘medical billing advocates’ who will work together with the hospital ombudsman or other relevant representative of the other side to either clear your debt, or at the minimum get it dramatically reduced and put on a payment plan. The best of these folks still cost money up front, but can save you thousands over time.
It’s only barely considered socially acceptable, but if you’re clever and personable, you can put the ultimate ‘help me’ button – tell your story on Facebook, on Twitter, and everywhere else on the internet, and then start a campaign on a site like GoFundMe. Just be sure you follow the rules (many such sites specifically forbid campaigning to pay bills). It’s a longshot, to be honest — but it’s worth giving it a shot before considering something like bankruptcy.