Arkansas Pharmacists Association: End of the Year Planning

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1. Use it or Lose It – A Flexible Spending Account is a special account you put money into that you use to pay for certain out-of-pocket health care costs. You don’t pay taxes on this money. This means you’ll save an amount equal to the taxes you would have paid on the money you set aside. 

FSAs are limited to $2,650 per year for 2018 but will bump up slightly to $2,700 for 2019. 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 co-payments but not for insurance 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.

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 have to wait a while when you pick up your first prescription in 2019.

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 cost 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.

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. 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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