The Moneyist: This woman put $9,000 on credit cards for medical bills — here’s how she got through it

“Anonymous” wrote to the Moneyist in 2017 about his sister’s medical dilemma.

Here’s a recap:

This woman was 76 at the time, and lived alone. Her only source of income was $12,000 a year from Social Security. She has Medicare Part A, B and C.

So she used three credit cards to pay for a $9,000 medical procedure. Bad move. She made only the minimum payments. This was before she learned that she must also have open-heart surgery.

She had three choices:

1. Credit-card counseling.

2. File for bankruptcy.

3. Her brother could loan his sister the money.

This is the action “Anonymous” decided to take:

“I looked into having others help, but ended up giving my sister the loan, paid off the credit cards and she has paid me back with ease. (It was a no-interest loan). I told her, “Please do not pay off any medical bills, but negotiate with doctors/hospitals in the future.”

Sure enough, she had to have open-heart surgery, but paid nothing out-of-pocket because she provided her income tax returns, which showed she was poor. I always do this for her even though the IRS doesn’t really require the return and Medicare paid the rest.

So good lessons learned for her. Thank you and your Facebook team.”

In 2017, I gave him some advice, including:

Know the difference between a “debt management” organization and a for-profit “debt settlement” company that offers legal and financial services. The latter is best avoided, if at all possible.

The Moneyist Facebook Group cautioned against loaning money and recommended she move to Canada, among other responses. I recommended giving her the loan, something I rarely do.

My 2019 response to this happy outcome?

Sometimes, taking a chance for a family member, especially regarding life-prolonging and/or life-saving surgery, pays off. They were #strongertogether to quote (and revive) an old hashtag.

I am so glad they found a way out of this financial medical mess with mutual trust and as a family, especially as so many letters involve some kind of deception and greed between family members.

My best wishes to them and all of the Facebook Group members who weighed in on this very difficult and emotional dilemma. Letter writers do read the comments, and often take the advice to heart.

And, of course, Happy New Year to “Anonymous” and his sister.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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