Monday, March 13, 2017

Maximizing Your HSA Account

Use These Tips to get the most out of your HSA dollars

Millions of Americans with high-deductible health insurance plans rely on health savings accounts to help them manage the costs of health care. If you're among them, you know how important it is to maximize the value you get out of every HSA dollar.

If you don't yet have an HSA, you may qualify for one if you receive health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan with a high deductible. Individuals may qualify if their deductible is at least $1,300, and families may qualify with a deductible of at least $2,600, according to the IRS. With an HSA, you can deposit pre-tax dollars into the account to pay for certain health and medical-related expenses - up to $3,400 for an individual and $6,750 for a family in 2017.

While there are approximately 17 million HSAs currently in use in the U.S., insurance industry watchers predict that number could rise significantly as the federal government again addresses health care reform, the Boston Globe reports.

You can maximize the value of your HSA in several ways, including:


  • If you're at risk for arterial or heart disease, you and your doctor may decide preventive screenings are in order. Screening proactively can help catch warning signs of trouble before a more serious problem develops. However, most insurers won't pay for preventive screening for arterial health.
  • You can use your HSA dollars to schedule vascular health screening through Life Line Screening. You don't need a doctor's referral to schedule a simple, safe and painless ultrasound to detect possible plaque buildup in arteries - a leading factor in stroke and heart disease. Life Line Screening tells you the price of the screening up front and offers appointments in convenient locations throughout communities. Visit www.lifelinescreening.com to learn more and schedule an appointment.
  • The cost of a "life alert" type emergency medical alert system is an eligible medical expense.  Use your HSA or FSA to pay for your medical alert system.  Check with your provider first, as they may deem the medical alert system eligible when prescribed and/or supported by a physician statement.
  • Keeping track of HSA-eligible expenses can be challenging, but budgeting software can help. Numerous free programs are available online. Most HSA providers also offer online access and digital tools to help you monitor your account, track saving and spending, and better understand the tax impact of your contributions.
  • If your employer doesn't provide vision insurance, you can use HSA funds to pay for eye exams, corrective lenses and even Lasik surgery. Studies show regular vision care is an essential component of overall health, and helps not only preserve your eyesight and eyes, but can also help detect other serious health problems.
  • Only about half of American workers have dental insurance through their employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For those who do have dental insurance, it typically does not cover all expenses. Yet dental health is intrinsic to overall health. You can use HSA money to pay for dental care, including exams, X-rays, braces, dentures, fillings and oral surgery.
  • Smoking is one of the most damaging things you can do for your health, and your HSA dollars can help you kick the habit. Smoking cessation treatment is a qualified medical expense that can be paid for through health savings accounts. When you quit smoking, your body immediately begins to repair the damage caused by smoking, and you reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer, according to the American Lung Association.

"Smoking is associated with multiple chronic diseases, so quitting is one of the best things you can do for your overall health," says Dr. Andrew Manganaro, chief medical officer at Life Line Screening. To help people understand their personal risk, Life Line Screening offers a program called "6 For Life" that outlines an individual's risk for six chronic diseases and includes blood tests.

Although controlling your weight is another important factor in overall health, few health plans will cover any kind of weight loss program. However, a doctor-prescribed weight loss program aimed at treating a specific disease such as obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease can be paid for with HSA money.

Your health savings account comes with many benefits and cost savings and tax breaks are just two of them. More importantly, when used wisely, your HSA can help you achieve better health.

- Article courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

8 Medication Management Tips for Caregivers

Use these 8 simple steps to help seniors, caregivers better manage their medications.

When it comes to medication use, seniors take more prescription and over-the-counter drugs than any other age group, and they are most likely to experience problems because of their medications.

Modern medicine can work wonders. However, in order to be effective, medicine needs to be taken safely, according to prescribing guidelines, and patients and health care providers need to be vigilant about the dangers of drug interactions.

The average American senior takes five or more prescription medications daily, and many of them can't read the prescription label or understand the prescribing instructions, according to the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

"Unless they reside in a senior living community or have another form of assistance, it can be very difficult for seniors to manage their own medications," says Kim Estes, senior vice president of clinical services for Brookdale Senior Living. "A lot of factors make medication management a challenge for seniors, including the sheer number of prescriptions many of them take in a day."

Medication Management challenges

While doctors prescribe medication to treat a range of chronic conditions from arthritis to diabetes and high blood pressure, seniors may find managing their medications difficult for multiple reasons:

  • Many meds and many prescribers - Seniors who are on multiple medications are often prescribed to them by multiple doctors, who may or may not be aware of other medications the senior is already taking. Taking a large number of medications can increase the risk of a drug interaction that harms seniors' health, rather than helps them.
  • Adverse side effects - If a medication makes a senior feel ill, he or she may stop taking it.
  • Lack of knowledge - If they don't understand exactly what the medicine is supposed to do for them, seniors may feel they don't need it and discontinue use.
  • Physical challenges - Age-related physical challenges such as hearing or vision loss, dexterity issues or trouble swallowing can make it difficult for seniors to take their medications as prescribed.
  • Cognitive challenges - Seniors with memory loss or dementia may forget to take their medications as prescribed.
  • Cost - Even with Medicare and supplemental health insurance, many medications can come with a hefty price tag. Seniors may not be able to afford a medication their doctor prescribed.

Medication management made easier

"Fortunately, seniors and their caregivers can take some fairly easy steps to help them better manage their medications," Estes says. "These steps take a little time and effort, but they can go a long way toward helping seniors use their medicines more effectively."

vial of life medical information form
  • Most seniors take five or more medications a day, and those with severe health issues or who are in the hospital may take significantly more than that. Make a list of every medication you take, what it's for, and what the pill actually looks like.
  • Make a checklist of all your medications. Every time you take a prescription, note the date, time and dosage on your checklist.  Medical Care Alert offers a free Emergency Medical Information form to list your medications, and other critical health info.
  • If you have trouble reading the labels on your prescriptions or can't open the bottle, ask your pharmacist to provide your medicine in easy-to-open containers with large-print labels.
  • Make a plan for getting your prescriptions. You may decide to schedule a drive to the pharmacy every month on a certain day or have someone drive you there. You may also find an online pharmacy that can deliver your prescriptions to your home.
  • When you go to the doctor, take your list of prescriptions with you, especially if you're seeing him or her for the first time. Your list will help the doctor know what medications you're already taking.
  • Work with your doctors to see if you can reduce the number of pills you take by consolidating medicines. For example, if you take a pill to reduce water retention and a medication for high blood pressure, some prescription drugs combine both types of medicine into a single pill.
  • A study by the University of Arizona found that having a pharmacist on a senior's care team helped keep seniors safer and improved their ability to take medications as prescribed. Keep all your prescriptions with one pharmacy and get to know the pharmacists who work there. Your pharmacist may be able to help you spot potential drug interactions.
  • Technology can help you remember to take medications on time. Set an alarm on your cellphone or download an event reminder app on your smartphone to help you remember when it's time to take your medicine.

"With a little planning and help, seniors and their caregivers can better manage their medications to ensure seniors get the most benefit out of their prescription treatments," Estes says.

- Article courtesy of BPT