Healthcare Savings Plans

Lots of awesome news for this week:

  • Happily no longer funemployed.
  • I have written 50 blog posts! Hurrah!
  • My grocery store just started stocking my favorite beer, which I have never seen in this state before. I may have freaked out in the aisle.

Not so awesome news:

Good counter-news:

  • My new job means I will have dental insurance and also a flexible healthcare savings plan!

Now, dental insurance is awesome and I am thrilled to have it. But my cavities are plentiful and expensive, and my insurance doesn’t cover the whole cost of mining my mouth.

I have never had a flexible healthcare spending account before, but I spent a little time researching them, now that I have one. Basically, it is money that you put aside before you pay taxes (another way to lower your tax bill, woohoo!!) that can be used for healthcare expenses like prescriptions, glasses or contacts (Lasik, even!) or…to fill in those cavities.

Flexible healthcare savings plans allow you to get more medical bang for your buck. Suppose I had to pay $1000 out of pocket for my cavities. Normally, I would have to pay that amount after I had already paid taxes on it, so it would cost me about $1300 (paid to the dentist and to Uncle Sam). With this savings account, I only have to pay $1000 to the dentist and none to Uncle Sam. Cavities stink, but at least I can save some cash-ola.

What is the catch?

  • You have to estimate the amount you think you will need up front. You don’t get to readjust, and you set the amount once a year.
  • If you don’t spend the full amount in the savings plan, you don’t ever get the money back (this is called a catch, friends).

My strategy is to plug in the amount I already know I am going to have to spend (hellooooo fillings) and then to estimate the remainder based on my past expenses. I am being somewhat conservative because this is a gamble. I would rather not forfeit money… and I know that I have some health expenses  (like new glasses) that I can take or leave, depending on how much money is left in my account at the end of the year. Worst case scenario I pay taxes on my healthcare expenses, which I would have done, anyway!

 

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Shopping Around

I don’t know about you, but dealing with everything to do with healthcare freaks me out. I don’t like making appointments, I don’t like talking with doctors, I don’t like feeling sick, I don’t like going in when I am feeling healthy because the only news you will get is that you are not healthy after all. I really don’t like (and don’t understand) health insurance.

I get especially freaked out about doctors and money because sometimes doctors don’t tell you the test they are doing (or sometimes they do, but they don’t mention to you that it costs more than the GDP of some small countries) and then 6 months later you get an outrageous bill. I already feel nervous and intimidated (and often I feel like I am being rushed along) when I am in the office and I never remember/feel awkward asking about the costs of the procedures. I really don’t understand how healthcare costs work and I generally feel like I am getting scammed by the exact people with whom I am trusting my health and well being.

Needless to say, I am not ready to write a post about making good financial healthcare choices because it is an area of adulthood that I definitely don’t excel at.

It is something that I need to work on. But this week I took a baby step towards getting over that by starting with a doctor and a procedure that I am very comfortable with- a cleaning at the dentist.

Here is what I did:

I am overdue for a cleaning, but I don’t have a dentist in the area. I looked on Yelp to find a highly rated dentist in my area. When I called to make an appointment, I asked (big step for me!) how much a standard new patient cleaning costs. $250! Holy cow! I said thank you and hung up without making an appointment. Not too hard or too embarrassing.
I kept calling around and was quoted prices from $190 to $340 (how is this last dentist even sleeping at night?)
Finally I found a dentist who has 5 stars on yelp who charges $150 for a new patient cleaning. Perfect. I have an appointment next week.

Baby steps. Instead of showing up, having my teeth cleaned and then being shocked at the bill, I did a little research and saved myself a bit of anxiety. I also saved myself (up to) $190.

I think I’ll try this again in the future.

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