End of the Year Tips with the Arkansas Pharmacists Association

12:30 Features

There are two weeks left in this decade but there are still plenty of things to cross off your to-do list before the end of the year to make sure that 2020 is a healthy and happy one.

Dr. Emily Wilson will go over how your pharmacist can help you with health-related tasks that must be completed by the end of the calendar year.

First and most importantly, today is the final day to sign up for health coverage on the federal Affordable Care Act exchange. The deadline is normally December 15th, but after the website experienced some technical problems, the federal government has extended that deadline to today. So if you are needing to get enrolled through the ACA exchange, you must do it today.

1. Use it or Lose It – Flexible spending account is a special account you put money into that you use to pay for certain health care costs. You don’t pay taxes on this money meaning your contributed dollars will go farther than if you were to just pay out of pocket. FSAs were limited to $2,700 per year for 2019 but will bump up slightly to $2,750 for 2020. You can use those funds to pay for certain medical and dental expenses for you, your spouse, and your dependents. You can use FSA funds to pay for deductibles and copayments but not for premiums. You can use FSA funds on prescription medications, OTC medications with a prescription, and insulin without a prescription. Other purchases that can be made with an FSA include medical equipment like crutches, supplies like bandages, and diagnostic devices like blood sugar test kits. You must spend all your FSA funds within the plan year, which typically is the calendar year, so now is the time to be spending those last few FSA dollars and your local pharmacy is the perfect place to use it. Sometimes, your employer may allow a grace period of a month or two into the new year or may allow you to carry over a certain amount of money, but don’t rely on that being the case if you’re not absolutely sure about it. Better to spend all that money and stock up on things you could use instead of losing it to the government.

FULL SCREEN – Flexible Spending Accounts

– Limited to $2,700 for 2019, $2,750 for 2020

– Can be used for:

o Deductibles

o Copayments

o Prescription medication

o OTC with prescription

o Insulin

o Crutches, bandages, blood sugar test kits, etc

– Cannot be used for:

o Premiums

2. New Insurance Changes – The new year may bring with it changes in your insurance. If you’ve got questions about your insurance, print out your benefits for the new year and talk with your pharmacist about what the changes are and what they will mean for your wallet in the new year. Also, send in a

copy of your insurance card before the end of the year so that it will be on file when you go to the pharmacy in January. Otherwise, you may be competing with all the other patients who have new insurance and have to wait a while when you pick up your first prescription in 2020.

3. Schedule a Tune-Up – You have an annual wellness check-up, why not do an annual medication check-up? Meet with your pharmacists to discuss any medication that you’re on that isn’t working as well as you would like it to or if there needs to be an adjustment in dosage or find a substitute. Medication therapy management (MTM) is a program aimed at getting patients on the right medication at the right dosage and keeping them adherent to their medication goals. There’s a nearly $300 billion burden of avoidable healthcare costs in the US due to medication-related problems. That’s $2 spent on the adverse effects for every $1 spent on medications in America, a very sobering statistic.

4. Sign Up for Medication Synchronization – Are you making several trips to the pharmacy a month to pick up prescriptions for your family? Get all of your medication synced to be picked up on one day, instead of having several prescriptions filled throughout the month. You could then determine which day you want your prescriptions filled and plan them around when you get your paychecks. Many pharmacies also offer delivery options for a very low cost or even free. Ask your pharmacist about options.

5. Medical Expense Summary – The money you spend on prescription medication is tax-deductible. Talk to your pharmacist about getting a medical expense summary to know exactly how much you’ve spent on prescriptions this year.

6. Plan for Next Year (Medicare Part D / ACA Exchange) – Wednesday, December 18th, is the final day of open enrollment to sign up for the 2020 Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Exchange.

7. Get Your Flu Shot – The holiday season will wrap up soon, but the flu season is just hitting its stride. In fact, just a few years ago in 2015, the flu season didn’t hit its peak point until March. Getting your flu shot is quick, most of the time it’s free through your insurer, and you don’t need an appointment to get one. Just head down to your pharmacy.

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