Medical expenses can be HUGE (ask me about my $22k kidney stone surgery last year), and while some of the larger expenses can be unavoidable, there are plenty of ways to save throughout the year.  Here are a few ideas.

Flex Spending

Flexible spending accounts are offered my some companies as part of their insurance benefits.  During your enrollment period, you are allowed to take as much as $5,000 out of your paycheck (in equal increments over the next year) that can be used towards your health expenses. As you incur health-related expenses, you submit your receipts to be reimbursed. This money is tax-free.  So if you make $50,000 a year and put $3,000 in your flex spending account, you are only taxed on $47,000 – which will save you a few hundred dollars at the end of the year.  So if your company offers this, think about your medical expenses for the year.  Here’s what I estimated:

  • Doctor’s Co-Pay: $400
    • That includes my $20 copay for 2 visits to my regular doctor (one annual checkup and one sick visit just in case) and my $30 copay for each visit to specialists like the eye doctor, dentist, podiatrist, urologist, etc.
  • Contacts / Glasses: $400
  • Medications: $400
  • Planned Surgeries or Deductibles: $500
  • Miscellaneous: $500

An important thing to remember about flex spending is that there is a policy of “use it or lose it” so come December 31st, you need to have used up all of that money or else you lose it.  There is usually a grace period of 2 or 3 months into the next year for you to use that money, but what I do if I have leftover money is get a new pair of glasses or some extra contacts.  It’s silly to just waste it.

Prescription Medications

Quick Facts:

  • The price of medication does differ from pharmacy to pharmacy.
  • If your parmacy blows you away with a high price for a medication, you have the option to NOT pick it up, and shop around at different pharmacies until you find the best price.
  • You are allowed to question your doctor and ask for cheaper alternatives.

Generic prescription medications are generally pretty cheap – there are a few hundred on Walmart and Target’s $4/month list of generics.  For the people who take brand-name medications, you can either look around for a generic by asking your doctor or the internet, or going to the manufacturer’s website.  I take a heartburn medication that is fairly new (no generic) and pretty expensive by my standards – around $47 per bottle depending on what pharmacy you go to.  Some ways to save:

  • Check out the manufacturer’s website: the pricey medication I am on had a coupon on the drug manufacturer’s website.  It covers up to $55 of my initial prescription and a few refills – so my $47 prescription is now free for the next 6 months
  • Transfer your prescription:
    • Every few months, Target has a coupon in their weekly circular that gives you a $10 gift card with any new or transferred prescription.
    • Many grocery chains, like my local Kroger, have coupons for prescription transfer credits in their weekly circular. Kroger gives me $25 in Kroger grocery credit with each transferred prescription.
    • I always ask for a prescription with 1 refill, so that I can fill it first at Target to get the $10 gift card, and then transfer it to Kroger to get a $25 grocery gift card. If my prescription costs $10 per bottle, I would pay $20 for the 2 bottles, and get $35 in gift cards – I just made a $15 profit off of my medications.
  • Ask your doctor for a stronger dose: If you take one 100mg pill every day, you will get 30 100mg pills in a prescription which might cost you $10.  If you took one 200mg pill once a day, you would still get a bottle with 30 pills for $10.  Ask your doctor to up your dosage to twice a day (or a stronger medication and take half) so that you only have to pay one $10 copay and get 2 months of medication.

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