Category Archives: Health Care

Shopping Around For Health Products

No matter who you are, you probably know that the cost of health related supplies or pharmaceuticals can be pretty costly. Even though you can write off some of these costs, you can’t be happy paying high prices for it up front; no one is.

What we find is that people tend to go to the store or pharmacy that’s closest to home. It turns out those stores don’t often offer the best deals. In some cases, there are stores and pharmacies that will offer special deals for people with specific diseases like diabetes and cholesterol issues. This is helpful to know when your insurance company either doesn’t cover the bulk of the cost of your medication or other supplies.

For instance, one local store considers itself the friend of diabetics. If you’re on insulin and have a valid prescription, they’ll give you syringes for no cost. As a comparison, most of the other stores in the area charge between $30 and $45 for the same 100 syringe supply; you can’t save any more money than that.

Another local store offers some cholesterol reducing medication at a drastically reduced rate than most other stores. For instance, at most stores a prescription of Pravastatin at 20MG costs around $40 for a 30-day supply. This one particular store offers it at $37 for a 3-month supply.

Most people are willing to do a lot of shopping for the lower price of things like groceries and appliances, but when it comes to health care related items, even health care services, for some reason people are reluctant to try to find the best prices available. While it’s true that the cost of health care can be high sometimes, there are still deals of all sorts to be found by taking a little bit of time, picking up the phone and calling around.

For that matter, sometimes you can look online and find lower prices for some medical supplies you might need. It turns out eBay is a pretty good place to find a lot of medical supplies at a reduced rate. Sometimes the seller requires you have a prescription for those items, but most of the time it’s just a straight up transaction. For some items you might have to check out expiration dates, but in doing some research we’ve found that most supplies are actually good past those dates for up to a year.

You can save a lot of money if you’ll take the time to shop around for the best deal possible. As always, don’t drive 30 miles to save a dollar, but if you can save a lot for the same thing then it’s worth exploring.

Have You Purchased Health Care Coverage Yet?

There are more than 11 million people who have signed up for insurance through the government’s health exchange, also known as the Affordable Care Act. At this point in time more people have insurance coverage than ever before in the history of this country.

For those that don’t have coverage though, time is about to run out. We did a post on things to know about the ACA last year. What we didn’t cover in that article is the time frame that you need to have insurance coverage so you can avoid the penalty.

Basically, the law says that if you’re not covered for more than 3 consecutive months, you might have to pay a penalty. Last year it was 2 months, but they gave you until May to sign up for insurance coverage. You’re totally exempt if your income is below your tax filing threshold or if you were denied Medicaid coverage. You’re also exempt if coverage would cost more than 8% per person in your household.

Unfortunately, the open enrollment period is now over, but there is a special enrollment period that lasts through the end of April if you qualify for it. If you just forgot or had problems filling out the paperwork, it can’t hurt to check this out.

By the way, you need to remember that the penalties are added to your income, not how much you actually have to pay. As an example, if your income was $30,000 and you got hit with a 2% family penalty, it would mean your total tax would be based on $30,600. Maybe… because the penalty is the “greater” fee between 2% or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child. At least the maximum for a family is only $925.

Still, it’s always better to have insurance if you can afford it. Even with the high deductible plans, you’ll find that you’ll get some discounts on medical services that will help reduce your out of pocket costs. True, it’s a monthly bill that might cost you between $350 and $500 (depending on your state), but if you have kids it could save you money in the long run (and you might qualify for a discount if you have problems paying the premium based on your income). It’s at least worth exploring.

5 Things To Know About The Affordable Care Act

Last October we did a quick piece on the new federal health insurance plan, known as the Affordable Care Act, and how it might affect taxes. This isn’t necessarily a follow up piece but it offers 5 things that could affect finances that maybe some folks haven’t considered before.

1. For many people there’s a negligible difference between what they were paying out of pocket for their health insurance and what they might have to pay now. Because of the wide range of discounts offered in many states some people might even end up paying less for their insurance. However, it also depends on where you live because if your area doesn’t have at least 4 competing offers you’ll see your costs go up.

2. It turns out that even with a deductible certain things are being paid, even if not at 100%. Diabetic supplies, lab tests, and even some doctor visits for specialists are receiving some kind of payment. While most insurances cover the same thing, the rate of payment is different so it’s worth checking with your insurance company to see what they might pony up for you (this has always been true by the way).

3. If you’ve never saved receipts for medical services this is the year you should do it. It looks like you can write off any payments you make for the year as long as it comes to at least 10% of your adjusted gross income.

If you have a high deductible plan because it’s what you could afford you’re probably going to fall into this category if you’ve had a few doctor visits or even prescriptions you’ve had to buy that you got minimal discounts for. If you got an adjusted fee owed based on income that will be taken into account, but you’ll need to see your accountant to figure out how it will all work out.

4. Even if you qualify for discounts on your insurance premiums, you should be cautious in accepting them if you feel your financial situation might improve. Those tax breaks you get will become payments you need to make back to the government if you end up not qualifying for those same discounts the next year; in essence it’s considered more of a loan. If you’re not getting at least 50% adjusted off, and you know you’re going to be going for a much better paying job, it might be smarter to not accept any assistance.

5. We haven’t talked about it here so it’s time to mention what happens if you decide not to get insurance. For 2014, the penalty starts at around $900 if you’re single, $3,800 if you’re a family. That’s considered “taxable income“, not how much you’ll actually pay.

Depending on your income it’ll start around $95 and go up from there for individuals and couples, and start around $383 for families. There’s a max limit the first year, which is helpful, but it goes up drastically for 2015 and eve higher for 2016.

The thing is, if you’re unemployed or under employed, and you don’t qualify for Medicaid, this is a great option because you could end up with little to no premiums coming out of your pocket and still have health care coverage until you get back on your feet. At the very least, it’s worth looking into, no matter what your finances look like. But hurry up, otherwise you’ll have to wait until November to start over.

What To Know About Taxes & Health Insurance For 2014

The Affordable Care Act mandate that everyone needs to have health insurance or pay a penalty starts in 2014. The requirement is that individuals must be covered for at least 9 months of the year to avoid having to pay a penalty. In actual costs, if you’re single or married with spouse and no kids you’ll have to pay either $95 or 1% of your total income, whichever is higher, and if you’re a family of 3 or more the cost is around $380 or 1% once again. Those are the actual dollars; it’s not much but it’s still money out of your pocket, and it goes up in 2015.

Here are a few more things you should know about what’s going on, including what’s happening in New York:

1. New York state is broken into multiple coverage areas, and each area offers something different, although some insurance companies cover multiple areas. Without a discount, plan costs seem to be running between $400 and $1,800, with the major differences being deductible and pharmaceutical costs. The lowest level plans, known as bronze level, don’t offer anything for pharmaceuticals, while the costliest plans don’t have a deductible that you must reach. Start thinking of health insurance like car insurance if you have to purchase one of these plans.

2. The range for qualifying for a discount on health insurance is pretty vast. For single or self + spouse the dollar amount is around $49,000, for larger families it goes all the way up to around $94,000. It’s nice to qualify for a discount but it comes with a warning that most people don’t know about. If you get a discount but the next year your income takes you above that level by a certain percentage (which hasn’t been released yet), you not only lose the discount but you might be required to pay back whatever discount you received beforehand. That doesn’t seem quite fair but it’s in one of those pieces of paper that experts have read so be warned about it.

3. Experts have gone back and forth as to whether consumers or small businesses will be able to deduct the cost of premiums in 2014. Supposedly if you’re getting a discount you won’t be eligible but if you’re not… still a bone of contention. The recommendation is to keep all receipts for those services that are presently allowed to be deducted if their cost is high enough which includes physician visits, dental visits, medical equipment and vision care; sorry but no sunglasses unless they’re prescription.

Unfortunately even now there are lots of questions yet to be answered, but as with most other things it’s important to keep all your receipts and share them with your accountant. At some point we will have all the answers we need.

5 Things You Should Know About Health Insurance

In a few months, it’s going to become mandatory for people who have no insurance coverage to either purchase something for themselves and their families or pay a penalty, what the federal government calls a surcharge and what the Supreme Court calls a tax. Either way, something’s coming, and I feel you should know some truths about it all. Here’s 5 things you should definitely know.

1. Yes, you will owe something to the federal government if you don’t buy health insurance, but just how much? It’s not as bad as you might believe. Confirmed with the office of Senator Charles Schumer on New York, if you’re single it will cost you around $90 a year. If you’re married or filing as a family the amount is less than $300. To put both of those in perspective, you’ll pay more in taxes because of your cellphone and cable TV.

2. A major benefit of the health care plan is that you can’t be turned down for pre-existing conditions anymore. This is probably the biggest benefit of the health care plan because it was prohibitive against pregnant women and anyone who might have even a relatively simple disease like diabetes from switching jobs because they might lose coverage for upwards of 6 to 12 months, or a horrible disease like cancer that a family member might have and automatically be disqualified if you changed jobs.

3. How it’s going to work is that insurance companies already in your area will put together plans based on federal guidelines that will give you basic coverage for emergency services and inpatient coverage. There will be multiple levels, anywhere from 2 to 5 different plans for most insurances, so you can somewhat tailor what you want.

4. There’s nothing saying you have to purchase a federally backed health plan. If you’re a small business you should look into coverage through a local chamber of commerce as they often can provide lower group rates and more covered services based on having multiple participants in the plan.

5. If you buy your own health insurance, you actually get to write it off your taxes. That and any other medical expenses, as long as you keep all of your receipts. That means you just lowered your out of pocket costs for what is a very important investment in yours and your family’s health protection.