Personal Medical Expense Strategies

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Personal Medical Expense Strategies

save on personal medical expenses
Personal medical expense costs are on the rise. So how do you, as a stay at home mom, cut your medical expenses?

These strategies to save money will get you started.
The following strategies are geared towards families with medical insurance coverage.

If you do not have health insurance, please see How to Save Money on Medical Insurance.

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Flexible Spending Accounts - Personal Medical Expense

Have you checked out your husband's employee benefits plan recently? His company might participate in an FSA, a Flexible Spending Account, which is great for saving on personal medical expense bills.

Generally, FSAs are in two different categories: Child Care and Medical Expenses. Since we are Stay at Home Moms, we do not qualify for the Child Care accounts, so I will only talk about the personal medical expense account.

You set aside pre-tax dollars from each paycheck, which go into your Flexible Spending Account. Once you spend money that qualifies as medical expenses, you get reimbursed from your FSA. So what's the big deal?

Because this money is pre-tax, meaning, it is taken out of his check before taxes are withheld, its like getting free money from Uncle Sam. This is especially important if you do not itemize your tax deductions because you do not have enough deductions, or you just don't want to be bothered. Most Americans do not itemize their taxes.

Your savings is whatever tax bracket you are in. You do need to estimate before the year begins how much you will want to place into your FSA. Generally (please note each plan may vary slightly) the following things are covered in a personal medical expense flexible spending account:

  • Doctor's Office Co-Pays
  • Insurance Deductibles
  • Testing/Treatment Not Covered by Insurance
  • Dental Expenses
  • Hospital Co-Pays
  • Hospital Deductibles
  • Prescription Medication
  • Over the Counter Medication (like Tylenol)
  • Band-Aids
  • Chiropractor Fees
  • Infertility Treatment and Medication
  • Medical Equipment

  • The list is quite large, and usually covers much more than any medical insurance and can be a phenomenal way to cut your medical expenses. Once you have decided how much you will place into your account, that total amount will be divided by how many paychecks you get a year, and then that amount will be taken out of each check, pre-tax.

    Example:
  • You would like to contribute $1,500 into your FSA
  • You get paid every other Friday
  • You would have $57.69 taken out of each check
  • The nice thing about FSAs is that you get reimbursed as soon as you spend the money. Meaning, if you have a $500 insurance deductible, which you spend in January, you do not have to wait for your account to reach $500 before you are reimbursed.

    Your account shows the entire amount you will accumulate for the year at the beginning of the year. The only bad part about an FSA is that if you don't use it, you lose it. So if you put $1500 into your Flexible Spending Account but only use $500, that extra $1000 is gone. Forever.

    But this works in reverse as well. If your husband is employed in January, and your family uses up the entire $1500 FSA account and then he loses his job or quits in February, he is not required to repay the difference.

    Your FSA is good for one calendar year, and you have a couple months to apply for previous reimbursements the next year. Some people are hard pressed to be "reimbursed", and find it difficult to essentially wait for a rebate check on money already spent. But if you have the discipline, this is one of the best strategies to save money on personal medical expense costs.

    Many companies are offering FSA debit cards, branded with MasterCard or Visa. Your card is set with your year's worth of FSA contributions, and can be used at time of service. This eliminates the need to apply for a refund.

    It's important to note that if you do itemize your taxes, FSA contributions are not deductible a second time.

    Tax Deductions

    Check with your tax accountant. You may be eligible for tax deductions on your medical expenses. You will need to keep careful records of all your expenses. These will include:
  • Mileage to and from your Doctor/Treatment Centers
  • Medical Procedure Payments/Co-Payments/Deductibles
  • Prescription Medications
  • Medical Equipment
  • Weight Loss Programs like Weight Watchers
  • If you itemize your taxes, these expenses may be deductible, depending on your situation. You MUST itemize your taxes in order to receive these deductions. Remember, the majority of Americans do not itemize taxes, but take the standard deduction because in many circumstances, it is more financially advantageous. Check with your accountant or tax professional to determine which method is best for you. And keep good records.

    Also important to note: if you use some of these expenses with your FSA account, you can't "double dip" and claim them on your taxes too. It's one or the other. If you spend more on medical expenses than you placed into your FSA account though, you can claim the difference in a tax deduction.

    Mail Order Pharmacies

    Another of the important strategies to save money on your personal medical expense is to utilize mail order pharmacies. You'll need to research this option through your health insurance company.

    Many companies offer huge discounts on prescription medication through their mail order services, making this a terrific way to cut medical expenses. For example, using Express Scripts, we can get 3 months’ worth of prescription medication for the price of 2 months co-pays, with free shipping, making it a great way to reduce personal medical expense costs.

    This option is perfect if a family member is on a reoccurring prescription, which must be filled monthly. And remember, you can use your FSA account to pay for it.



    Prescription Gift Cards

    If you do not have access to a mail order pharmacy, or if your prescriptions are occasional, the best of the strategies to save money and cut your medical expenses is to use a prescription gift card.

    If you look through the Sunday paper, or call around to pharmacies in your area, you may find that they will offer you a gift card to their store for bringing in a new or transferred prescription, a great way to reduce your personal medical expense.

    These gift cards generally range from $10-35, though most are $25. The gift cards usually cannot be used for more prescriptions, but can be used for anything else in the store. You can buy milk and bread with them or even store them up for use on holidays and buy gifts for family members.

    Usually, you will find a coupon for the gift card offer in the store's flier. These are not done all the time, but sporadically, so pay attention! The following stores commonly offer prescription gift cards. And sometimes, they honor competitor's coupons. Check with your local store for details.

  • CVS
  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Rite Aid
  • Safeway
  • Kroger
  • Albertsons
  • Winn Dixie

  • In addition, many drug companies are now offering discount cards or coupons to users with insurance to reduce their copays on personal medical expense items. If one of your family members takes a specific drug on a regular basis, check with the drug company's website to see if you qualify for these discounts.

    What tips do you have for saving money on personal medical expenses?

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