Health Care Column


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 Health Care 
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State Healthcare Rankings Released

A nonprofit organization called the Commonwealth Fund released a study in which they ranked the various states (plus Washington DC) on how good their healthcare system was. Hawaii ranked first and Mississippi and Oklahoma came in tied for dead last; they also concluded that if every state could reach the mortality rates of Hawaiians, there would be 90,000 fewer deaths each year. I personally think that if I lived in Hawaiian, I’d probably live longer too because it’s freaking nice out there.

All kidding aside, the study looked at 32 factors ranging from percentage insured to number of adults who receive preventative care; even in the best states, the performance fell “far short of optimal standards.”

Maryland came in 19th with an average rank of 24.4, 16.6 behind the leader Hawaii with an average rank of 7.8. My state of birth, New York, came in 22nd with an average rank of 25, only 17.2 behind the pace. Poor Mississipi and Oklahoma scored an average rank of 47.8, a whopping 40 off the leader. A huge chunk of states fell within the 22 to 32 range, so there isn’t much of a difference with a lot of the states in terms of average.

Source: Yahoo Finance

 Health Care 
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Employer Trying To Get FSA Overspend

I was recently stumped by this recent reader question about Flexible Spending Accounts and was hoping someone here could shed some light on it.

I recently read an article dated May 10, 2005 about Flexible Spending Accounts. You stated that “If you leave the company at any time.., you aren’t required to pay back the amount you’ve already spent and your employer foots the bill.” Where did you get that information? My husband is leaving his job after 6 months and we have already used the money from his account. His company is trying to tell him that he has to pay this money back. Do you know if there is an official IRS regulation or anything else that we can site? We are afraid that they are going to take it out of his last paycheck. Can they do that? How can we stop them?

When I scoured the IRS.gov site about Flexible Spending Arrangements, I could only find the “use-it-or-lose-it” provision but not anything about paying back an FSA overspend. I could only recall from my own experience and those of people I’ve talked to about this as my backup but didn’t know if there was some codified rule out there I was just missing. The reader’s husband is leaving this Friday and was hoping to have some good ammunition to fight the company so if you know of anything, please do share either via email or in the comments below.

Thanks!

 Government, Health Care, Retirement, Taxes 
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State of the Union: Health insurance, tax breaks & Social Security

On Tuesday, during the President’s State of the Union address, President Bush is going to be discussing, among other things, three items that relate to some of the issues often discussed on personal finance blogs. Just wanted to give a heads up in case you were planning on watching the State of the Union and wanted a score card.

(click here to continue reading…)

 Health Care 
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Cut Health Care Costs: Check Who Takes What Insurance

Ever go to a store, pick up a whole bunch of stuff, and then find out they don’t take credit cards? Yeah, I think that’s ridiculous too (but entirely their right, I would just put the stuff back and leave) Well, at hospitals, some of the specialists won’t take some of the insurance types because insurance companies are a pain in the ass to deal with (imagine how hard it is to get insurance companies to pay the people who pay them, now imagine getting them to pay you when you don’t pay them… now imagine doing that all freaking day). So, the fifth tip in CNN Money’s Fifty Ways To Cut Your Health-Care Costs is to double check with all the specialists you’ll be working with do accept the insurance that you have and that they are in your network. It’s best to do this before you get treated but when that can’t be helped, you should ask when you’re there.

Source: CNN Money

 Health Care 
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Spend $200 in FSA in Two Days

When I signed up for my new health insurance with my new job near the end of August, I elected to put $200 into my flexible spending account. Without reading the fine print, I didn’t realize that the plan year was January to January and that my election wouldn’t be prorated for the remaining three months of the year. I also didn’t realize this whenever I reviewed by first paystub either. I did realize it about a week ago, which was not enough time to schedule any doctor’s appointments but was enough time for me to go on yet another medical supplies binge – something I did about three months ago before I quit.

I have more than enough standard medical supplies (pain relievers, hydrogen peroxide) as well as some of the more exotic non-OTC drug related products like an Omron blood pressure monitor and some electric heating pads. So, what is left?

Right now, my best bet is to get some more contact lens solution (despite having so many bottles already), some first aid kits (always good to have one in the car), and maybe some more NyQuil. Anyone have any good ideas?

 Health Care 
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Cut Health Care Costs: Check For Billing Errors

Ever go to the grocery store and get double billed on a box of macaroni and cheese? How about seeing an appetizer you never enjoyed on your restaurant bill? Those are like three dollar mistakes if you ever miss them. Now imagine if you missed a three hundred dollar procedure on a hospital bill (which are ridiculously obfuscated with codes and acronyms and written in some sort of alien shorthand), that’s a lot of missed appetizers and boxes of mac and cheese. Medical billing errors happen and they’re the subject of the fourth tip in CNN Money’s Fifty Ways To Cut Your Health-Care Costs.

(click here to continue reading…)

 Health Care 
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Cut Health Care Costs: Pay Now, Pay Cash

This is part of a series taking a look at CNN Money’s Fifty Ways To Cut Your Health-Care Costs and this is the third tip in the series. Again, related to the first tip of negotiating your health care bill, this tip recommends paying up front, in case in order to get them to slash the bill some more. Pam Deloney of the American Private Physicians Association believes that by paying in advance and in cash, you can usually negotiate your bill 10% lower because they won’t have to spend the time and the money on the collection side. They estimate that doctors lose thousands on unpaid bills and credit card processing fees – so cash can usually save you some money.

Source: CNN Money

 Health Care 
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Cut Health Care Costs: Know Real Costs

This is part of a series taking a look at CNN Money’s Fifty Ways To Cut Your Health-Care Costs and this is the second tip in the series. This one is related to the first tip of negotiating your health care bill, they recommend that you request the costs for some of the common medical procedures so that you have more ammunition when you go to bargain with your doctor. Shopping for health care is like shopping for groceries, you should have a general idea of how much a gallon of milk costs so that when you see it on sale for $10, you don’t get suckered in by the “sale.” The difficulty with medical costs is that it usually happens when you’re not well and you, hopefully, don’t buy much health care so you aren’t aware of how much a procedure should cost. Money recommends that you ask your insurance company as they will probably be able to help you the best.

Source: CNN Money

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