RIP Deductible, Jan 1 Hurts. Here’s How to Hurt Less.
For those of us with chronic illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease, the end of the year is also the end of the insurance year for most plans. While my friends were preparing to say adios to all that has happened during the year, New Year’s Eve for me is always bittersweet. It’s when I have bid adieu to lower-cost co-insurance payments or buh-bye to a $0 co-payment because my deductible was met. Because come January 1, it’s RIP deductible.
This became a running gag with some Crohn’s friends. We even made a meme with a little tombstone for the deductible.
Cramming in exams and procedures at the end of the year
For me, the end of the year is when I generally try to cram in all last minute exams, procedures, anything that would be considered costly when the deductible resets. A lot of my debt is medical-related due to having a high-premium high-deductible plan in 2012 and 2013 when I lost my job due to a major Crohn’s and Arthritis (now known as Psoriatic Arthritis) flare. Since then, I’ve created a plan to help it hurt less, where possible.
For example, I was supposed to have surgery the second week of December. When I found out I needed it, it was right before our November 30, wedding date. It left very little time in 2018 to get the procedure accomplished. I would have followed through with it, all in the name of a deductible already met. However, due to getting married and traveling a few days later to Washington DC for a patient lobbying day, I postponed it.
Truth be told, my inner number cruncher is sorely regretting that move. But I wanted to be realistic about recovering properly. I was also concerned about hiccups if there would be an issue going from my old insurance plan to my husband’s new plan. It didn’t help that the plan was completely new to his local HR team. I chose the path of least resistance (stress), which may lead to more money out of our pockets in the end.
Another example of how I try to make the beginning of the new insurance year hurt less is what I do with PRN (as needed) prescriptions. In August, I take stock of all my prescriptions and organize my medicine drawer. “As needed” medications for me are things like prescription strength nausea medications, a special prescription NSAID that is a lower risk for IBD patients to digest, alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointment for skin manifestations, and steroid cream I use for Psoriasis outbreaks. Depending on how much I have on hand, I’ll start ordering refills either in August or September if my prescription deductible is met.
Communication with my doctors
I’m honest with my doctors. They can usually see when I fill things. I let them know what I’ve filled and why; especially if I’m not using them quite yet. They’ve been with me through financially rough times and when insurance wasn’t covering much. They get it.
This enables me to not worry about filling certain meds when I need them only to find out they may be realistically outside of my budget. I try not to use my credit card unless necessary. In the end, yes, it probably all financially evens out. But the beginning of the year is the hardest to get hit with the higher end of medical costs. We are coming off the holidays, and the wedding this year. Add onto that life, in general, is expensive when you live with a chronic illness... let alone multiple chronic illnesses.
Refilling my Epi-Pen kit
Another thing I like to advocate for refilling toward the end of the year when your deductible is met is an Epi-Pen kit. I found out there was an Epinephrine shortage when I tried to refill my Epi-Pen prescription. My kit was expired and then some. It was a little concerning, but I’m glad I did my inventory because I would have overlooked that one easily as it stays covered most days in my purse or backpack. The pharmacist worked overtime locating a kit to travel with before leaving for our wedding.
Choose a plan and set a budget
There are two things to do when open enrollment time arrives. The first, figure out which plan you should select. Second, start estimating the cost and set a budget of what you can save to help ease the deductible reset pain. If your plan allows for contributions to spending accounts, please explore them. These accounts are known as flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA). Each one has its own set of rules, so I strongly encourage research on these plans and what they cover (doctor co-pays, dental, vision, glasses and braces, over-the-counter and –prescription medications). Contributions to the plans are usually pre-tax, which is another added benefit. And some employers contribute to them to help offset the deductible out of pocket.
Hopefully, these tips will help your deductible reset hurt a little less.
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