We have job losses, houses being repossessed, the banking industry in disarray, companies going into bankruptcy or shutting their doors forever,… the list goes on and on. Nope, the economy isn’t getting better any time soon.

There have been numerous conversations about saving money, paying down bills, how to buy items, eliminating debt, and a host of other recommendations that are all very good. One thing that’s been somewhat lost, and is finally starting to make its presence felt, is health care coverage. We’re not talking about President Obama’s plan for revamping the system; we’re talking about right now, how important it is to try to maintain health care coverage for you and your family.

The truth is that most of us don’t sit around thinking about health care all that often. If we get sick, or a family member gets sick, then it’s important to us, but rarely at any other time is it on our minds. So, when jobs are lost, unless you’re already receiving benefits, it’s one of the last things you think about. And it’s easy enough to do, and understandable, because so many other things are hitting you in the face; trust me, I’ve been there.

So a couple of months ago, when Suze Orman said on the Oprah Show that she’s rather see people living on bread and water rather than give up their health care plans, it was both a shock and a wake up call to America. Her feelings were that, especially with families, you never know what’s coming around the corner, or when, and not having insurance to help cover those expenses may delay getting help for whatever ails you, and, even worse, may leave you with much bigger bills than you ever thought possible.

Being a health care finance consultant, I can certainly agree with her on that point. A visit to the emergency room could cost you up to $1,000 in some areas of the country, and that’s for nothing worse that strep throat. If you need to have a laceration repaired, or an xray taken, those costs could drastically escalate. If you’re already in debt, that’s a scary proposition. Back in the 90’s, medical debt didn’t touch you on your credit report if you decided not to pay, but in today’s world, medical debt is not only considered, but it’s a big deal. And its costs can accumulate fast.

When Jim Cramer stated almost the same thing this morning on the Today Show, it reiterated just how important having health care coverage is. As a matter of fact, Cramer recommended that if you have to get a job that doesn’t fit your background or experience, even what some might consider a menial job, that if it has health care coverage it may be more valuable than you might imagine.

Let me say this to you; hospitals are not heartless. Every hospital offers charity care options of some sort, and will even offer payment plans that aren’t geared towards hurting you at all. What they expect, though, is for you, as a patient, to contact them and try to work something out, not duck your responsibility to address the issue. Actually, that’s the way most collection agencies work, but if you work with a hospital, you can eliminate the possibility of your accounts going to collection; that’s a much better thing to do.

So, as you consider ways to save money, or ways to live, keep health care coverage in the middle of your mind, not in the back of your mind. Being that proactive might save more than your sanity later on.