The Best Time To Schedule Your Annual Physical

Our health insurance has changed for the worse quite a bit over the past couple of years, as our contribution levels have skyrocketed, while deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses have increased.

One thing that hasn’t gone away is the preventative services premiums.  Annual physicals and all required immunizations are covered at 100%.  No co-pays or anything.  I think this might be mandated nowadays by Obamacare, but that’s so complex and convoluted, that I really have no idea.

All I know is that when it comes to having kids, the fact that all immunizations are covered is a huge money saver.

Our newborn daughter went in last month for her first series of shots, and they rang to the tune of $450.  That was actual payout by the insurance company to the office.

In terms of adults, everybody should get an annual checkup.  Everybody.

But, what’s the best time?

I think, it’s the fall.

Simple reason, two words: Flu shot.

I have been going in the fall for my annual checkup, and every time I’m able to get my flu shot which is then free.

It might be free anyways even if I went in special for that, but my guess is that an office visit would apply, in which case I’d be on the hook for $30, which is our co-pay for non-checkup visits.

So, if you’re not going to your doctor for an annual checkup, guess what?  Fall is coming so make an appointment now and plan on getting your flu shot as well.  Save some money and maybe yourself as well 🙂

That reminds me, it’s time to call my doctor’s office and schedule my visit.  Will you call today?


Do you get an annual checkup?  Flu shot?  When do you go? 

Just By Asking, I Saved Us $7.50

Back in June, when my wife was going into the hospital to deliver our second baby, I was all about priorities.  Was she comfortable?  Would she get in her room right away?  Would they have her midwife paged?  Could we avoid paying for the phone?

Ever the frugal daddy-to-be, I remembered that last time we were there, we made one phone call during the entire course of the hospital stay, and payed a few bucks as a standard phone charge.  Figuring we could just avoid the phone charge, I asked them if they could disable the phone for outgoing calls.

The nurse told me that they couldn’t, and that it was a bundled charge with the TV.

Bummer.  Kind of a rip-off really, because I’m sure that they know that pretty much everybody is going to watch TV if possible.

Anyways, when the bill came, I saw that the nurse had been lying mistaken.  The telephone and TV charges were listed as separate line items.  The TV charge was $11.50 (still a rip-off, but whatever) and the phone charge was $7.50.

I called and explained that we had requested to have the phone disabled and that we didn’t make any outside phone calls.  Before I even asked, she said ‘OK, well, I’ll go ahead and take the $7.50 off’.

Awesome!

Since those items aren’t FSA card eligible, this was coming straight out of our bank account.  While this isn’t going to put us on the road to riches, I did figure out that this is roughly five or six days worth of diapers for the new baby.  Considering the number of diapers a newborn goes through, I’m mighty glad I made that call!

When was the last time you thought to ask for something removed from your bill?  Was it successful?

Debt Deal Fallout: Start Preparing For Your 2% Pay Cut

By now, everybody is aware that the debt deal passed.  I always figured it would and that it would take until the last minute.  It’s just how things get done, especially in today’s ultra-partisan government.

One of the things that it included means that anybody that works should be prepared for a 2% pay cut starting next year.

How’s that?

Simple.  The FICA payroll tax holiday, where taxes were rolled back by 2% for 2011, have virtually no chance of being renewed under the agreed terms.  Although it was only a one year agreement originally, the hope was that it would be able to be extended for at least another year (hmm, just up until elections, how convenient would that have been?).

This could end up being a problem for many.  Smart people with the means to do so took the 2% and just stashed it somehow, whether it be through increased retirement savings or some other way of socking it aside.  But, my guess is that the vast majority of people incorporated it into their everyday budget, which will make it much more difficult to take out come that first paycheck of 2012.  For that reason, I never thought much of the payroll tax holiday, simply because, as the ‘temporary’ Bush tax cuts proved, once you put money in people’s pockets, there’s going to be some major protesting when you try to take it back.

So, if you’re lucky enough to get a raise before the end of the year, you should knock off 2% of whatever you get, because that’s going to be going away within a few months.

Personally, I’m not sure how it will play out.  We haven’t gotten raises in the last two years, and there’s hope that it will finally be the year where raises are awarded, though I’m guessing it won’t be more than 3%, which would effectively work out to zero since I hope to bump up my 401(k) contribution by 1% when a raise eventually happens.

For us, it will also depend on health care. Our ‘holiday’ essentially went to paying higher premiums that were jammed down our throats in 2011.  Knowing that we were having a baby, we ended up selecting a plan that had higher premiums. With no planned babies (and hopefully no major health care expenses) in 2012, we are hoping to select a plan that would cost us a little less, which could help offset the 2% holiday expiration.

This doesn’t even touch on the possible impact to the economy, as the ‘holiday’ was designed to increase consumer spending, and even that hasn’t really been too solid this year.  It seems a foregone conclusion that we’re headed towards a double-dip recession, and this certainly will not help make that any easier.

How will the resumption of the 2% FICA tax impact you?  What do you think it means to the economy?

An Example Of Why Health Care Costs Are So High

As many of you know, my wife is pregnant with our second child.  Both pregnancies have been very healthy for her, but there have been a couple of bumps along the way that have been checked out.

A few weeks ago, around her 30th week, she started having some persistent cramping in and below her stomach area.  She called the OB’s office and talked to the nurse.  After hearing that they had been going on for quite awhile, they advised that she should definitely get checked out.  They wanted her to get hooked up to a monitor to check the baby’s vitals as well as to measure whether my wife might be having contractions.

Normally, this is something that the OB office can handle.  In fact, with her first pregnancy she had a similar occurrence, and they had her come in to the office and get checked out.  Thankfully (as was the case this time), everything checked out OK, and the symptoms eventually went away after some additional rest.

The difference was that with the recommendation a few weeks ago to get checked out, they also told her that they couldn’t fit her in at the office.  Instead, they advised her to go to the hospital and get checked out at the labor & delivery unit.  There, they would perform the same tests.

We agreed to follow the advice, and went and got checked out.  As was the case with the first pregnancy, they did not see anything wrong.  She was having minor contractions, but they didn’t see anything too alarming and sent her home advising additional rest.

Better safe then sorry.

The difference, though, was the cost.  I knew we’d pay more having to go to the hospital.  But, the difference was staggering.

When my wife had to go to the office for her first pregnancy, they charged her a standard office visit.  When all was said and done, we paid a $15 co-pay and the insurance company covered about $50.

For the same thing happening this time, except at the hospital, they considered this an ’emergency room’ visit.  Our co-pay: $150.  The insurance kicked in another $500 or so.  That was after over $1,000 in ‘member savings’ due to negotiated rates between the insurance company and the hospital.

It’s staggering.

As far as who to ‘blame’, I’m not sure that you can.  You can’t really blame the OB office for not having any slots or staff or whatever it was that made them unable to see my wife.  You can’t blame the hospital as they have negotiated rates and all that with the insurance company for services.  You can’t blame us for going because it’s silly to even think about ignoring a potential problem.

All you can do is shake your head and know that health care costs are too high and the system that was built is somehow still out of control.  I keep hearing about how there is waste in the system that has to be eliminated in order for health care to be affordable and accessible to all.  If lawmakers truly want to tackle waste, perhaps looking at a few real world examples and starting from there might help.  I’ve got an example for them!

Lent’s Over…So How’d I Do?

A few weeks back, I blogged about how I was giving up laziness for Lent.

Specifically, I wanted to get into an exercise routine, so I set a somewhat vague goal to exercise on a routine basis.

I’m happy to report that I kept with it.  I rode the exercise bike a total of 28 times during Lent, going for nearly 12 hours total, burning just over 4,000 total calories according to the readout, all while pedaling nearly 200 miles.  I know the intensity is pretty light with those numbers, but compared to what I had done in the months leading up to it (nothing), I’m very happy.

Now, the next goal is to keep it up!

As a side note, my wife’s goal (which I joined her in) was to stop snacking before bedtime (we used 8pm as the cutoff).  This was achieved as well!

All in all, it was a pretty healthy and successful Lent!

Yes, There Is A Problem With Health Care In America

When it comes to the whole health care debate here in the United States, I’m not on the ‘left’ or the ‘right’ side.  I think it’s sad that politics have largely been able to take over the debate, when the bottom line is that it’s tied back to the health and well being of so many citizens.

For those that don’t think there aren’t fundamental problems with the health care system, just read this article from MSNBC, where a drug that’s largely been available for decades is going from $10 per dose to $1,500.

And what makes my blood boil is that this is related to the health of premature babies.  The drug is designed to reduce the rate of premature deliveries for those mothers (and babies) who are at high risk.

This is important.  And, even though there are insurance companies out there that are stepping up and covering the higher costs, you know that there are a lot of people out there who are going to be left out in the cold with these new higher prices.

That could be the difference between hundreds of babies delivered per year that could be healthy, but instead might be debilitated for their entire lives.

And why?  Because one company got the exclusive rights to manufacture this drug, and is taking advantage of that for the next seven years by jacking up the price to an unfathomable level.  But, drug companies that win these types of exclusive deals are allowed to do whatever they want.  In many cases, high costs are justified because of all the research and development that went into them.  In this case, how can a drug that’s been around for decades warrant this kind of cost?

It can’t.  The only way it can is for those who believe in the ‘Wall Street’ mantra that ‘greed is good’.  Because instead of it being about the health and opportunities of these potential premature babies, it’s about greed.

Sickening.