Monday, February 19, 2018

Frugal Ways to Keep Medical Costs Down

Regular readers know that we've taken a creative path for our health care this year, going with an ACA exempted cost sharing program.  Assistance kicks in if we have a hospital stay or surgery, everything else is our responsibility.  Technically we do not have health insurance.  And oddly, that fact is help us save a lot of money.  We had the option to pay $1300/month for a plan requiring us to pay the first $13,000 out of pocket.  Note, that $1300 a month premium was paid with after-tax dollars.

I'll admit, I was quite nervous about this new path.  I am not any longer.  We've had several visits to the doctor, and after we tell them what our situation is it is like a light goes off in their heads and they take us down a different path. They are free to practice without HMO restrictions, and we are in control of what we will and will not elect to do.

Here is how we've saved so far:
  • Lowest Med -- we have received significant savings on prescription with their coupons.  Earlier this week I paid $45 for three medicines that would have cost $280 without the Lowest Med Coupon.
  • Shop your Pharmacy -- Lowest Med linked us up with HyVee.  The coupon was low, it is right up the road from our house, and I earned $0.15/gallon off on the gasoline card the store offers.
  • Amazon for supplies.  My husband needed a sleep apnea machine.  We bought it on Amzaon Prime and received 5% back and had it delivered to our door in 2 days.  His primary recommended the device, and we skipped opting for the sleep study which would have delayed treatment and cost a large chunk of change.
  • Shop your doctor -- we've learned that some UW clinics here in Madison are "physician" owned and others are owned by the hospital.  If we see a doctor at the hospital owned facility we get a bill from the doctor AND the hospital.  If we go to the physician owned building, we get one bill from the physician.  We opt for "physician" owned clinics!
  • Ask for an uninsured discount.  This ranges from 25% to 33% off visits.....the price to see a doctor is less than what our insurance negotiated rate was last year with SSM/Dean.
  • Ask for samples of medications, especially if it is something new.  You don't want to buy a month supply of something you cannot tolerate.
  • Pay with a cash back credit card.  Our dentist offers a 5% discount when you pay day of, but that is not something medical office can offer because of delays in medical coding.  When possible, I use the credit card that gives cash back.  We claim it all at the end of the year and put it into our travel savings account.  One percent may not sound like much, but on medical purchases it can add up quickly.
Health care is one of our largest annual expenses.  Last year it cost more than our mortgage and property taxes.  We made some radical changes, have reduced costs, and are stock piling the savings so that we can shoulder future medical expenses.  We do not know when they'll arrive or their severity, but this path allows us to bulk up our medical nest egg.

Stay tuned as well explore how to reduce child care costs in 2018.  Two days of after school care for two elementary school aged children costs $3,600 for the 9 month school year. Summer camp options can easily cost $1,000 to $2,000 a MONTH for two kids needing full-time care.  If you have ideas on saving in this area, I'd love to hear them.  We are working on a plan now, which is made even more challenging with my unpredictable work schedule.  Sometimes I am crazy busy, other times is a calm flow of part-time hours.  I can't predict, but have to plan for summer care.  Time to get creative.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

28 Day Pantry Challenge

Hello February!  A month of cold dark nights, icy sidewalks in the morning, and countless Wisconsinites daydreaming about Spring.  Need proof, February is Garden Expo month in the frozen tundra.  We need hope of warmer and less icy days.

First things first though; we need to empty our pantries and freezers of the fare we squirreled away last Summer and Fall.  For many living the frugal path January is "Pantry Challenge" month, as shown here on my friend and fellow blogger's Yarnstead page.  The idea appealed to me last month, but the reality of life ceased any efforts of focused chipping away at the food stocked on our shelves and in our freezer.  Unexpected travel for a funeral, getting 2017 tax papers in order for the CPA, -- you know the drill.

But here I am on the doorstep to the shortest month of the year, February with it's 28 days. I can do 28 days.  My goal, each day to use at least one item that has been sitting on a shelf or in the freezer for more than 1 month.  Our home does not need to function as though we were -- it's time to use it up, give it away, or toss it on the compost heap (yes, I compost all winter long).  Out with the old to make room for the new, arriving in a few short weeks.

February 1st -- using the Rhubarb compote I froze last Spring.  Gathered from our home garden it is a quick and easy way to capture the smell of early summer to enjoy on a cold February morning.  Sound tempting, here is my simple recipe.  Perfect topping for oatmeal!

Be well, and thank you for following me on the frugal path through life.