• Posts Tagged ‘hsa’

    Reached Your Deductible? Maximize Healthcare Expenses Before the New Year

    by  • November 20, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    pill box

    This sorta looks like my pillbox. Sorta.

    Due to an unfortunate stint in the emergency room this past summer, I single-handedly hit our health insurance deductible for the year. You know what that means? FREE STUFF!

    (well, not for my employer or the other people who are paying in this insurance plan, but I digress…)

    A few days ago I had my regular checkup with my psychiatrist who is managing the medication regimen that I use for depression. I’m pretty frank with my psychiatrist about money matters, so I always ask what’s the best way to get my money’s worth so that I can maximize my HSA dollars. I was down to my last few pills and was prescribed a 30 day supply of the medication (Wellbutrin, if you’re curious). My psychiatrist told me to fill my prescription ASAP so that I could get a “free” refill before the end of the year. How does that work, you ask?

    My insurance company will allow most prescriptions to be refilled every 28 days (or whenever there should be about 90% remaining). By filling my prescription before tomorrow (November 5), I will be able to refill my prescription twice for “free” (remember I hit my deductible for the year) since there are two 28-day intervals before January 1; the last dates that I’d be able to refill are December 3 and 31. If I refilled my prescription every 30 days starting November 5, I will have to refill my prescription on December 5 and January 2. In that scenario, the second time I refill my prescription would be in 2012, so I would have to pay out-of-pocket (minus the insurance discount). By refilling my prescription a little early, I’ll be getting my January allotment of pills for “free” since I will be refilling the prescription this calendar year.

    If you’ve hit your healthcare insurance deductible for this year, try to maximize your healthcare expenses before the year is up. You could potentially save a lot of money.

    image:  Dvortygirl

    This post was originally published on November 4, 2011. I was going to write pretty much the exact post but remembered this was in the archives.

    The Cost of NOT Running the Half-Marathon

    by  • August 11, 2008 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (and who hasn’t) you’d know that last year I ran my 1st half-marathon; I spent almost $500 on training and other associated costs in preparation for it. This year I signed up for another one and heeded the advice I received from the prior blog post, namely not buying so many sports drinks and using regular band-aids to protect my oh-so-sensitive nipples. The cost of the race was $55, and that included a tech shirt. Woo.

    I’ve been training mostly by myself for the past 3 months; I used much of the experience I obtained from last year and added fartleks and other speedwork so that I could improve my time from last year, along with helping me get faster for soccer.

    Then, last Sunday morning, I woke up with a stiff back, and a lot of generalized pain in my lower back. I stupidly went ahead and played soccer, thinking that the pain would go away after I warmed up. Not so – it ended up getting worse after the game. On Monday I could barely walk – we ended up driving to work and had to pay $16 for parking.

    After a steady regimen of ibuprofen and rest, my back seemed like it was getting better as the week went on. Until Friday, that is. It felt as worse as it did on the previous Monday. I decided I had enough and ended up calling my primary care physician to see if he could diagnose me and give me something for the pain. He diagnosed me with a sacroiliac joint strain, and prescribed me some pain meds, told me to take some OTC meds for pain and inflammation, heat treatment, and rest. I’m pretty sure that visit will cost me around $300, which of course will be paid with funds from my HSA. I ended up buying some OTC naproxen and some pain relieving patches, for a grand total of about $20.

    Yesterday morning was a picturesque Chicago summer day; cooler than usual, around 60F with a cool breeze. A perfect day to run a half-marathon, specicically the Chicago Distance Classic. Well, it would have been a good day to run 13.1 miles, but instead I was at home nursing a back injury.

    I can’t help but feel a little defeated that I couldn’t run; in my head I know that the 3 months of training helped me maintain my fitness and helped me reach new goals.

    It just sucks that I ended up paying almost $400 for a shirt.

    Making the Most of My HSA Dollars

    by  • October 15, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    photo: double dose

    Through my employer, I currently have a high-deductible healthcare plan (HDHP) coupled with a health savings account (HSA). These accounts are like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) in that pretax dollars can be used for a variety of qualified health-related expenses. The exception is that there is no “use it or lose it” policy – I get to keep the money from year to year.

    Fortunately, each year my employer contributes close to the maximum amount to my account. Here are some of the ways that I have maximized the money in my HSA:

    Made sure I was billed correctly
    My insure plan entitles me to one complementary check up exam per year. After I saw my doctor, I was pretty shocked to see that I had a bill to pay. When I delved further into the matter, I saw that he entered in another billing code. I called up the office and my insurance company to straighten the matter out. It took a little while, but it saved me almost $200.

    Made a payment plan
    If you know you’re going to have a major procedure done, but you’re a little short on funds in your HSA, call the hospital and see if you can work out a payment plan. I did this when I had knee surgery last year. When I decided to have knee surgery, my company had just established the HDHP/HSA plan. My employer deposits money into my account once per quarter, so I knew I wouldn’t have enough to cover the deductible right away. I called the hospital and asked if I could be put on a payment plan. That helped tremendously when forecasting cashflow for my HSA account.

    Asked for the cheap stuff
    During one of my doctor visits, my doctor prescribed me a new medication for hypertension (which thankfully I don’t have to take anymore). I bluntly asked him, “Can you prescribe me something that isn’t very expensive because I have a HDHP/HSA?” He prescribed me a medication that was easily available as a generic; it only cost me $8/month to fill!

    Also, I always buy store brand versions of common over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

    Blew through my deductible early in the year
    I had knee surgery early in the year, so I met my deductible very quickly. Since I was aware of this, I made sure to try and schedule any major appointments with my doctor before the year was up, since my insurance would cover it. If I waited to do the procedure until late in the year, I wouldn’t have as much time to take advantage of what my insure would cover.

    I use coupons for almost everything I buy with my HSA account. OTC medications, saline solution, eye exams, and contacts are my main purchases. Also, be sure to check your sales fliers for stores that give out free gift cards when you fill a prescription. We haven’t paid out of pocket for much at our local CVS since we’ve racked up so many of these gift cards.

    How do you maximize your healthcare dollars, regardless of whether you have an HSA?

    Health Savings Accounts

    by  • January 31, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about “consumer-driven” health insurance plans in the news. Today, our President will be giving his State of the Union address, and will probably be emphasizing the adoption of these consumer-driven insurance plans in order to help alleviate the costs of healthcare. I am most familiar with Health Savings Accounts (HSA), but many people don’t know much about them. Here’s an overview.

    HSAs are used only in conjunction with High-Deductable Healthcare Plans (HDHP), with a minimum deductible of $1,000 for individuals, and $2,000 for family coverage. An employee (and employers, if you’re lucky) deposits pre-tax dollars to fund an HSA in order to cover medical expenses until the deductible is reached, then the insurance takes over the costs of healthcare such as doctor visits, surgeries, etc. The annual contribution limits for 2006 are $2,700 for individuals, $5,450 for families, or up to the amount of the deductible, whichever is the lesser. Money deposited into that account can also be used to pay for healthcare related items also, such as over-the-counter medications, bandages, and surprisingly enough, lactose-free milk/lactase enzyme supplements (we’re both lactose intolerant). These healthcare expenses would NOT apply towards the deductible.

    These HSAs are also like retirement accounts in many ways. Money that is deposited in these health accounts rollover year after year, meaning that you don’t have to spend what is in the account before the end of the year, unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). The funds in the account can then be invested and grow tax-free. Funds can be taken out anytime to pay for healthcare expenses, or can grow and be withdrawn as income, penalty free, after the age of 65. Funds taken out to cover non-medical expenses before that are taxed and are subject to a 10% penalty. Lastly, the HSAs are “portable” meaning that if you switch jobs, your HSA goes with you. YOU own the HSA, not your employer.

    Generally, the HSAs are combined with HDHPs such as PPOs, meaning that consumers are 100% in charge of how much they want to participate in their healthcare, from choosing how much to find their accounts to choosing doctors. There is an argument that choice is a bad thing when it comes to these plans, as consumers are looking for cheap healthcare and do NOT fund their HSAs, and have trouble making good healthcare decisions on their own such as picking the right doctor.

    When I first starting working at my company, they offered a standard PPO health plan, which they paid the premiums for. Since then we have switched to an HSA combined with a HDHP with a $2,500 deductible. These types of accounts have only existed since late December 2003, and since then more and more businesses have been picking them up. These types of plans are especially lucrative to small businesses such as the one I work for because they don’t have to pay high insurance premiums for their employees. It could be argued, however, that businesses would be reluctant to help fund these accounts because of their portability. Luckily for me, my company contributes 100% of the deductible to our HSAs every year, essentially giving me free healthcare (not to mention free milk).

    Nonetheless, HSAs aren’t for everyone. I’m not sure if this is unique to our insurance plan, but prescriptions are full price, but count towards our deductible. Some people in my company have very expensive prescriptions, and would blow through the $2,500 in a few months. After the deductible is met, our insurance covers 80% of prescription costs — clearly not an advantage for the person with a lot of monthly healthcare costs. Also, visits to the doctor’s office are paid out of the HSAs, but after the claim has been adjusted with the insurance provider. These can be pretty expensive if you go a lot. But, for people in my company, mostly young and healthy adults, this seems to be a good solution.

    Another risk is that when the accounts are new and do not have a lot of funds, an emergency can cause a major financial setback due to the high deductibles. This is something we have had many arguments about, as I’m more of a “what’s the worst that can happen” kind of guy, and she is a “you’ll get hit by a bus” kind of girl. I’ve only had the plan since September, there isn’t that much money in it since my employee only deposits 25% of the yearly deductible costs every quarter. If I did happen to get hit by a bus or get mauled by fluffy kittens, we would have to take a pretty big financial hit to cover the deductible. So I’ve been trying real hard to avoid busses and kittens.

    More reading:
    U.S. Treasury – Health Savings Accounts (U.S. Treasury)
    Fact Sheet: Guidance Released on Health Savings Accounts (White House)
    Prognosis Is Mixed for Health Savings (NYTimes)
    Health saving accounts (CNNMoney)