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Medical Emergencies Cost $2,782. Most Americans Can't Afford Them

You know, the thing about medical emergencies is that they’re just that – emergencies. Unplanned, it seems that they always come at the worst possible time, and of course they need to be dealt with urgently.

A Federal Reserve Study recently asked Americans if they would be able to handle an unexpected expense of $400, and found that nearly half of them were not prepared. They then asked what types of emergency expenses they’d actually faced in the prior year and found that one in five had to deal with a major unexpected medical expense. The average cost? $2,782 – almost seven times the cost of the hypothetical surprise bill the Reserve had been asking about.

As the Chairman of the Board of a non-profit that works with Chicago’s most vulnerable, this came as no surprise. I’d previously known that most Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the thousands of homeless guests we serve each year often show me living proof that when an unexpected crisis hits and you need to choose between making your next mortgage payment or dealing with a medical bill, consequences can get dire very quickly.

By creating a community where individuals can get connected with the resources they need, we have been able to see tremendous improvements in the quality of life of Chicagoans. Indeed, our partners in sober mental and physical health report that the care they are providing to our guests would either not happen at all, or would need to be treated in emergency rooms who have a legal obligation to provide care regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

That’s why at Care For Friends, we host our annual Sleepout for Homelessness each winter. I’d love you to consider joining me this winter by sleeping out yourself. You can find all the information you need here. And if spending a night outdoors during one of the coldest nights in Chicago isn’t your thing, take a look at some of our other participation options as well – including providing financial support to others.

The Federal Reserve study reminds us all that we should expect the unexpected – and the community created by Care For Friends helps support those who might struggle with some of the surprises coming their way. 

This article is also available in videoblog format. Find it in the archive. If you enjoyed it, let me know by giving it a "Thumbs Up!" and sharing it with your network.

About:  JD Miller is a senior technology executive with a career spanning small startups and large public companies. He uses this expertise to help organizations increase and sustain financial performance. He is also active in Chicago’s philanthropic community, with a special interest in issues related to hunger and homelessness.

You can follow Dr. Miller on Twitter @JDM_Chicago

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