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Yolanda R-L Baker initially started GrayStar Investments, LLC as a real estate investment company in late 2006. After her son’s autism diagnosis in 2007, she shifted the company’s focus to consultant to special needs families, helping reduce their medical expenses.
After having success navigating the medical system, Yolanda wrote, B.I.T.E. Your Bills: A Four Point Plan to Cut Medical Expenses for Disabled Children, Adults and Seniors. The book guides the disabled and their families to cut health care costs using tax deductions, Health Savings Accounts, health insurance, and other budgeting techniques.
MO: How challenging was it to pivot your business model after receiving your son’s autism diagnosis?
Yolanda: I deliberately ignored the challenges when I changed my business model from real estate investing to assisting the disabled. It was the right thing to do. My husband and I decided to keep our rental properties, but the focus would no longer be research and networking for potential investments. The focus would be research and applying budgeting techniques and tax deductions to reduce our medical expenses.
MO: How did you educate yourself on navigating your son’s disability and the new medical territory that came with it?
Yolanda: I am so grateful to have a background in accounting, which made it easy for me to learn about medical expense tax deductions. However, I had almost no knowledge of how health insurance worked. It was difficult to find the right information about what my husband’s health insurance policy covered. There were so many important papers to review and analyze; it felt like I was doing calculus when reading our Explanation of Benefits documents. Eventually, I got a handle on navigating through the health care maze.
MO: How did you manage to get nearly $30,000 back in medical expenses?
Yolanda: I was reimbursed those first two years by deducting every eligible medical expense I could find. I maxed out our Health Savings Account, saved my spare change, and applied other deductions such as mortgage interest, rental investments, and other deductible items to our tax return. The reimbursements decreased in 2009 and 2010; my husband’s knowledge of his health insurance policy and his persistence resulted in most of our son’s therapies being covered.
MO: What were some of the initial challenges you faced when finding out about your son’s autism? What advice would you give to other families facing similar circumstances?
Yolanda: The initial challenge was finding the right information about his diagnosis and treatment options. The pediatrician who diagnosed our son was gentle with us; she referred us to a wonderful speech therapist. However, my husband and I still felt overwhelmed.
My advice to families whose child has been recently diagnosed is to talk with a special needs family. Ask what they did when they first found out about their child’s condition. Although the internet is a wonderful tool for information and resources, an honest face to face discussion with a parent of a disabled child is essential.
MO: Can you give our readers an overview of your book, “B.I.T.E. Your Bills: A Four Point Plan to Cut Medical Expenses for Disabled Children, Adults and Seniors?”
Yolanda: This is the first of a series of books about reducing health care costs; this edition covers specific medical expense tax deductions most special needs families use (from my research and experience). I cover topics such as the deductibility of alternative treatments and medicines. I use personal experiences handling my son’s expenses as examples in the book.
MO: You are providing much needed support and advice to families struggling to navigate a complicated and intimidating system. What kind of feedback have you received so far? Do you have any success stories to share?
Yolanda: There is usually one person at my seminar who asks “Why isn’t anyone else doing this?” I don’t know the answer to that; I sometimes wonder why this is the case. Due to time constraints and scheduling conflicts, the only success story I could offer in the book was mine. However, I hope that someone who reads this will be kind enough to offer me the chance to help them for my next book. Let me know, people. I promise I won’t bite!
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