Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: Caring Mill Digital Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor

High blood pressure is a condition that affects 1 in 3 adults in the U.S., and could make for more serious health problems and even heart damage if it isn't kept under control. But according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 54% of these American adults have this condition under control, largely from their ability to monitor their blood pressure numbers and adjust their lifestyle choices accordingly.

But that doesn't mean you need to make weekly trips to the doctor. Home health monitoring of your blood pressure numbers is a smart choice for those with hypertension to monitor any spikes in their numbers so when you do have to head into the doctor, you'll have a clear picture of your blood pressure readings to get a better window into your health.

So if you're in the market for a blood pressure monitor, we suggest the Caring Mill Digital Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor!

This lightweight, compact device is travel-friendly and utilizes a cuff that is placed right around your wrist to take accurate readings with one touch of the touchscreen. The device also has internal memory for up to 60 prior readings, so you can better track how your blood pressure is affected by lifestyle, diet and other factors.

Best of all, this is a Caring Mill product and in addition to being ideal for your health needs, a portion of the proceeds of each sale will go to support Children's Health Fund, a national charity dedicated to providing health care to America's disadvantaged youth.

If it's time to start tracking your blood pressure numbers at home, don't pay out of pocket, use your HSA funds on this qualifying expense instead!

Other diagnostic needs

Braun Thermo Scan 7 Ear Thermometer

Braun Thermo Scan 7 Ear Thermometer includes patented Age Precision technology for age appropriate fever guidance.

$59.99

iHealth Align Gluco-Monitoring System BG1

This powerful glucometer fits easily into your pocket and attaches directly to your smartphone or tablet for fast, accurate readings whenever, wherever.

$18.99
Living Well

Future Healthy: How do HSAs factor into the growing freelance boom?

A lot of people consider using the new year as an excuse for a new start. Maybe it's a better diet. A commitment to travel more. And for some, it might mean a new job with more flexible, reasonable hours. Which is why we're hearing so much about the gig economy.

Contract work, freelancing, moonlighting -- the way the world works is changing in a very big way. The current work climate sees more and more people choosing to leave traditional workplaces and pursue self-employment, because of the freedom they have to choose their work environment, set their own hours, and maybe even add a little more variety to their chosen profession.

Plus, with the exponential growth of connectivity, it's easier than ever to stay connected to companies and clients remotely. This increased focus on contract work means workers have an abundance of new career options, while companies can hire the right people for their needs… not just the best people within driving distance.

So... what's the concern?

Plainly speaking, not having a full-time employer means dealing with an increasingly competitive freelance arena, and the lack of security and stability that comes with it. While there are plenty of health insurance options available to gig workers, the medical and retirement benefits that come with a full-time, salaried role are still mostly better for the employee.

Given these challenges, for many people making the leap to self-employment ensuring they're covered by health insurance might not be a top concern while sorting out the cost-benefit analysis of leaving the traditional workforce for the gig economy.

But if you're an HSA owner, you can breathe a little easier when venturing into the independent workforce. If you had an HSA with a previous employer, you can make the leap to independent employment with money already saved for health care needs. It might not be ideal, but it's your money to use for medical costs as you see fit.

And if I don't have an HSA?

Even if you don't have an HSA from a prior full-time role, an HSA is a very attractive, attainable option when sorting out the health insurance landscape as an independent worker.

To qualify for an HSA you have to be enrolled in an HSA-qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), not enrolled in any other medical coverage (such as Medicare), and can't be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return.

What makes this combination attractive is that HDHPs generally have less-expensive monthly premiums than more traditional plans – something price-conscious freelancers will appreciate. In turn, the HSA is building a reliable savings fund for use whenever needed. For the self-employed this means more of their money is going into the savings account and less toward monthly premiums.

Not only is the upfront cost lower, but this high-deductible, lower-premium pairing can encourage a little bit of frugality with your medical spending. In other words, if your deductible is high, then you might not run to the doctor every time you have a cold. Plus, the set deductible protects you from the financial burden of big medical bills, should something more serious happen.

Finally, your HSA funds operate similarly to an IRA, in that you can invest the money in outside investments, like mutual funds or bonds, while the earnings remain tax-free, as long as you use the money to pay for legitimate medical expenses.

IRS 101

Freelancers often work to reduce their taxable income by as much as possible each year through deductions, expenses and even end-of-year capital expenditures. An HSA can become part of a strategy to reduce taxable income while saving money for health expenses that can be used tax-free at any time.

For all other expenses, we encourage patience. Before age 65, tapping into an HSA for non-qualified withdrawals comes with a steep 20% penalty, plus that money becomes taxable. So you might want to hold off on that vacation. But once you turn 65, this money can be withdrawn penalty-free for any reason (income taxes apply).

Being 65 might seem far in the future for many freelancers, but putting money into an HSA that doesn't get spent on medical expenses eventually turns into a tax-free retirement savings account.

We understand that leaving the traditional workforce for contract work can be daunting. Gig workers can face the challenge of keeping up with multiple clients, tracking payments, and dealing with a more haphazard work schedule than even those who own small businesses.

But with an HSA as part of your health care and savings plan, your physical and financial well-being doesn't have to be a part of the stress.


Health needs for any age

Dr. Ho's Foot Circulation Promoter

Clinically proven to increase blood flow and circulation while easing muscle tension.

$199.99

Caring Mill Assorted Variety Bandages, 280 ea

This is a great bandage set that offers a variety of sizes to cover the most common medical situations.

$10.99


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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

Wage Up! Smoking cessation programs (and why an HSA is a great way to cover them)

Quitting smoking is hard. And smoking can be a very expensive habit. With the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout coming up on November 21, right now might be a great time to tap into your HSA funds to pay for a smoking cessation program (or even get a prescription from your doctor for smoking cessation products, like nicotine patches or gum).

The stats are daunting – according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are almost 38 million cigarette smokers in the U.S., smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year (about 20% of deaths), and more than 16 million people have a smoking-related disease.

Rebecca and John's smoking cessation journey

How hard is quitting smoking?

Rebecca quit nine years ago and described the process as "one of the most difficult things" she's ever done. Just doing something with her hands was a challenge along with getting off nicotine.

Rebecca said when going out she would cut cigarette-sized straws to hold and ask friends to blow smoke in her face to meet both challenges. It took more than a year before she felt fully free from cigarettes.

"As a result of smoking for 22 years, I now have really bad asthma, but it's controlled. I'm just glad my body has taken care of me -- I've mistreated it horribly, but we are on good terms now," said Rebecca.

John had a different experience. He tried quitting five different times over a 15-year period before succeeding on January 1, 2017. John's journey included trying both nicotine patches and gum. He tried cutting back on the number of cigarettes he smoked, but that fell through the first time he met friends for a beer.

Using a vape device didn't work because he didn't like the artificial flavors that didn't approximate an actual cigarette. He finally decided to go cold turkey by stopping New Year's Eve 2016 and hasn't looked back.

The smoking cessation process was treated like an experiment by design by John. He said he knew some products might work better for him than others so he actively kept an open mind about what could help him quit smoking. He also gave himself permission to fail as many times as needed before quitting successfully while understanding why he failed to keep himself accountable.

"The toughest part I think for every smoker is they must understand the urge will never go away. Ever," said John. "You're not going to wake up one day and suddenly no longer be susceptible to smoking. If that were the case, drug rehabilitation would have a 100% success rate.

"The tough part is three months in when you smell a cigarette in the car next to you in traffic. The tough part is a year later when you've had a few beers at a sports bar with friend and you go outside to answer a phone call and you find yourself in smokers' alley. Those are not the times of temptation, they are the times where you miss smoking the most. You just must come to terms with that and move on. Quitting is a tough journey, but it is worth it."

"If it takes one, 10, or 1,000 times to quit, you will love yourself for the decision," he added.

Why you should quit

Per the ACS, the smoking rate is down. It was at 42% in the U.S. in 1965 and decreased to under 15.5% by 2016, but if you do currently smoke it is worth taking steps to end the habit. It isn't easy and it isn't quick as you can learn from any ex-smoker.

While HSA funds can only be used to buy smoking cessation products like nicotine patches or gum when prescribed by your doctor, that money can also be used to pay for a smoking cessation program without a prescription. The Great American Smokeout is a great reason to take the leap and decide to stop smoking for good. Then all the money you end up saving on cigarettes can go into better things… like your HSA.

Smoking cessation products

Harmless Cigarette Quit Smoking Aid, 30 Day Quit Kit

Satisfying the psychological & physical habit.

$34.95

LifeSource UB-521 Digital Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor

State-of-the-art measurement technology.

$38.99

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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something big, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Product Pick of the Week: Kanjō Travel Acupressure Set

Acupressure mats have been one of the biggest sellers on HSAstore.com over the past year, and a new product from Kanjo will allow you to take your drug-free pain relief regimen on the road.

Kanjō Travel Acupressure Set

First and foremost, what is acupressure? In many ways it's similar to acupuncture, which is used to treat chronic pain issues and a wide variety of other conditions by manipulating specific "acupoints" in the body to alleviate pain. Where acupuncture uses needles, acupressure utilizes "pressure" on these key points throughout the body, reports WebMD.

Acupressure mats and pillows were created to deliver targeted therapy to help treat neck, back and foot pain, fibromyalgia pain, stress relief, improved circulation and more. But traveling with something the size of a yoga mat can be limiting for some people, and while they are great for at-home use, those who need to take their acupressure therapy on the road now have a solution.

The Kanjō Travel Acupressure Set includes a compact acupressure mat, acupressure pillow and a carrying case that folds down to find into any carryon or backpack. Both the mat and pillow have plastic stimulators over the surface of each piece that are designed to target aches, pains and spasms.

The Kanjo acupressure mats have already been a huge hit with our customers, and this new travel pack can help you bring your drug-free pain relief therapy on the road. If acupressure has worked for you or has the possibility to give your spouse/qualified dependent a new way to treat pain, it's a smart HSA-eligible buy for any time of the year.

Other eligible must-haves

Caring Mill™ Instant Ear Thermometer

The Instant Ear Thermometer provides a stable, heat interference free reading with each measurement.

$24.99

New-Skin Antiseptic Liquid Bandage Spray


First aid to help prevent bacterial contamination in minor cuts and scrapes.

$6.59


Accounts

Wage Up! Is an HDHP right for me?

High deductible health plans (HDHPs) are currently the only path to having an HSA. Of course, most -- but not all HDHPs meet the criteria to qualify for an HSA. The current IRS definition for an HSA-qualifying HDHP is a plan with a deductible of $1,350 for individuals and $2,700 for families.

With open enrollment season coming sooner than you think, now's a good time to start thinking about whether or not an HDHP is the right choice for your upcoming health plan. Read on for one person's account.

So, this sounds complicated (but it actually isn't)

Why should you consider an HDHP? The trade-off for the higher out-of-pocket costs is HDHPs typically carry a lower monthly premium than traditional health insurance. And being able to contribute to an HSA is a definite benefit of having an HDHP – the triple tax advantage of HSAs along with the fact contributions are yours until you tap into the funds.

(Unlike the "use it or lose it" provisions with flexible spending accounts (FSAs).)

This can make traditional insurance versus an HDHP a more-involved decision process that brings a number of questions into play, including long-term financial planning and overall health.

Typically an HDHP is more attractive for younger employees who tend to be healthier simply because of their age and single employees. A consideration for families is the fact that more people covered by a high-deductible plan means it's more likely those out-of-pocket expenses will arise in any given year.

When an HDHP might not be the best option

Of course, there will always be circumstances that turn the HDHP option into something that just isn't right for an employee.

One example would be a relatively young employee who still engages in a number of recreational sports activities like basketball or volleyball leagues, or higher-risk activities such as skiing, snowboarding or skateboarding. The increased risk for orthopedic or other injuries tied to those types of activities might mean taking the chance for paying out-of-pocket for a broken bone, serious joint sprain or torn ACL isn't worth the gamble.

One consideration in this example is the 2020 HSA contribution limit for individuals is $3,550 while the potential out-of-pocket costs could be up to $6,900 meaning there is no way to save up to the out-of-pocket max each year with that year's HSA contribution.

A second example would be an employee of any age with a family history of chronic health issues such as heart or blood diseases. And, of course, this consideration would increase each year as someone with an HDHP ages. The issue is chronic illness typically requires a range of expenses from ongoing care and possible medication to more extensive diagnostic testing to chart the progress – or lack of progress – of the disease. The result is a known level of annual medical expenses that will have to be spent out-of-pocket with an HDHP.

Like all insurance and financial decisions, going with an HDHP and an HSA over traditional insurance and an FSA is worth spending some time debating, given your own circumstances and how far you are willing to spend out-of-pocket for medical expenses.

If having lower monthly health insurance premiums and being able to contribute to a savings account rather than a spending account is attractive to you, this combination could make sense for your circumstances.

Spend smarter!

Curad Non-Stick Sterile Pads

Wound dressings for light bleeding, large surface cuts, scrapes, burns or post-surgical wounds.

LightStim for Acne

Calm and heal existing blemishes and reduces future breakouts.

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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something big, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

HSA Headlines - The expanding scope of HSA eligibility

When people discuss health savings accounts (HSAs) most of the discussion centers on long-term savings, retirement and that amazing triple tax benefit. But every now and then, it's good to remind ourselves about the "health" portion of health savings accounts.

And when we hear how real people see real benefits from their benefits, it serves as a good reminder that there's more to health savings than just preparing for retirement.

So, since we're on the verge of open enrollment season, let's take a look at an article that reminds people of just that.

Family Finances: Benefits of HSAs for those with chronic illnesses - Kaitlyn Pitsker, Kiplinger's

We've spent some time discussing how HSA expansion could open the doors for a lot of people to consider enrolling in HDHPs when the time comes to elect benefits. Especially if those people have chronic illnesses.

This is because a big part of HSA expansion is the 14 new treatments and services that might qualify as "preventive care" under an HDHP, potentially eliminating the out-of-pocket costs that previously turned these patients away from high-deductible accounts. Now, people with diabetes, chronic heart disease or other ailments can get their basic medical needs covered as "preventive" keeping these costs at bay -- sometimes even for no cost at all.

And if you consider the high costs of insulin, blood testing supplies, statin drugs, and even SSRI medicines like Prozac, this is a huge revelation that could swing the pendulum back toward HDHP enrollment this season.

And these are just 2-3 case examples. The growing list of potential chronic conditions is almost certain to be more inclusive year over year.

The article goes on to discuss how the HSA's unique triple tax benefit and other cost-saving measures could combine with these new preventive care inclusions to make HDHPs a fantastic source of comprehensive health coverage, even if you're not as generally healthy as those who usually enroll in these accounts.

Eligible diagnostic needs

CONTOUR® NEXT EZ Blood Glucose Monitoring System

Shown to deliver close to lab-level accuracy for results you can trust.

Caring Mill™ Premium Automatic Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor

Compact and lightweight wrist blood pressure monitor with a universal cuff that makes it ideal to travel with.


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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Wage Up! How to stay healthy on campus

Now that school's in full swing, many new college students are finally adjusting to their first tastes of dorm life. There are more than 20 million students currently attending college in the United States. That's a lot of people. And anywhere that's home to that many people tends to be a breeding ground for just as many germs.

That's why it's important for students to know the best ways to stay healthy at school. While it might seem like an uphill battle, it's actually easier than you may think. If you're a new college student (or responsible for taking care of one) here are some tips we think are useful for getting -- and staying -- healthy on campus.

Wash. Then wash again.

Now, obviously, we don't need to remind you to wash after using a public restroom or blowing your nose. But considering how many people pass through (and touch) all areas of campus, there's probably a bunch of other times that warrant a thorough scrub.

  • Whenever using cash and receiving change in stores. Apps like Apple Pay and Google Wallet are helping curb the problem, but even the crispest bills have probably touched plenty of hands!
  • After riding escalators, pushing elevator buttons, or holding stairway handrails.
  • At restaurants and convenience stores in the student union -- with all the heavy foot traffic, chances are restaurant staff are having trouble keeping up with cleaning needs.

And be sure to actually wash your hands whenever possible. Antibacterial gels and lotions are great in a pinch, but nothing can replace the cleaning and sanitizing ability of good old fashioned soap and water.

Getting ahead of it

Sickness spreads quickly when you're living in close quarters like college dorms, so it's important to make sure you stay ahead of the curve. According to a 2017 survey, while 70% of college students in the U.S. found it important to get a flu shot, only 46% of students actually got vaccinated.

And because a new flu virus circulates every year, staying up to date on your flu shots can save you a lot of trouble when flu season rolls around in December. Luckily, campus clinics typically offer flu shots as a part of their services and they're HSA-eligible, so make sure to get vaccinated.

Campus clinics

That isn't all campus clinics have to offer. On top of revving up the flu shot engine when the season comes around, on-campus clinics offer a variety of other services for college students to stay healthy. From STI testing, to counseling and allergy help, on-campus clinic medical professionals can help you tackle any medical problem you may be having.

As a convenient and reliable resource for when you're feeling under the weather at school, campus clinics are a great place to go for quick and easy medical servicing. Clinics are usually open five days a week and are available for both appointments and walk-ins, making the accessibility unbeatable.

Rest up

Lastly, make sure you're still taking care of yourself. Get eight hours of sleep a night. In college, it seems like there's always something to do -- whether it's a party or a late night study session -- but sometimes the best thing to do is rest up.

Sleep is essential to making sure your brain is running properly and your heart is staying healthy. That's because during your sleep cycle, your body repairs any damages that may have occurred throughout the day. Sleep also affects the chemicals that can make you feel hungry or full, and your insulin levels. In fact, sleeping more can actually help you stay in better shape when all that's available is dining hall "cuisine."

Staying healthy on campus might seem hard at times, but it's not impossible. Remember that you always have your campus clinic to go to if you're feeling sick, and try to stay ahead and on top of any pesky illnesses that may be going around.

Dorm room essentials


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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something big, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

HSA Headlines - Is artificial intelligence the key to better open enrollments?

A common theme around most of our HSA Headlines pieces is open enrollment, and how to make it a better, more educated experience for all parties involved. But, up until recently, open enrollment has largely been a human-directed process, with little influence from technology other than clicking selections and submitting paperwork.

It looks like this is changing, with artificial intelligence (AI) set to help people MAKE decisions, not just submitting them. Let's take a look.

This HR tech could help employees make better enrollment decisions - Caroline Hroncich, Employee Benefit News

This week, Alegeus, a consumer health care company, launched a software platform that could change the game in benefits election. In partnership with software provider Picwell, employees on Alegeus systems can now take advantage of a platform that effectively guides them towards the right health care selections using AI.

(And a large part of the thinking behind the technology is explaining tax-advantaged accounts like HSAs and FSAs.)

It all starts with a series of personal health questions. Once entered, the responses are cross-referenced against a database of medical claims data, followed by plan suggestions generated by predictive analytics. The result (the companies hope) is a team of employees that feel empowered and in control of their benefits elections.

Now, to be fair, the idea of AI-driven HR tools isn't a new concept -- several companies have been dabbling in these platforms for a while now. But now these ideas are coming to fruition, and the article goes on to compare the Alegeus tool with other decision-making tools, and even another Alegeus offering, the Smart HSA app, which helps users make the most of their tax-free funds.

The timing for these developments couldn't be better, since it seems an alarming percentage (a reported 30%) of companies still don't provide adequate benefits education, leaving most of the tough questions unanswered… and most of their employees unsatisfied with their annual health care decisions.

Obviously, it's still very early in the AI/open enrollment revolution. But we're confident that more health care companies are going to develop assistants that help workers craft benefits options better suited for their needs. It's a positive development we'll be watching very closely as we approach the coming open enrollment season.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

HSA Headlines - 23andMe is now partially HSA-eligible!

After a pretty long wait, owners of tax-advantaged health accounts are seeing some interesting changes to eligible expenses. Just last week, the IRS announced it was expanding its list of eligible preventive care services to accommodate more chronic conditions. But this week's news is even more interesting … especially for those seeking information about their family health history.

IRS provides tax break for 23andMe as a medical expense - Michael Cohn, Tax Pro Today

While it won't cover the entire testing expense, the medical portion of ancestry services like 23andMe is now FSA- and HSA-eligible. And that can equal a lot of savings, considering it accounts for roughly $117 of 23andMe's $199 total cost.

This is a tremendous step forward for eligibility, and a positive sign of the IRS reevaluating the things that matter most to account holders. Because looking past the obvious family discovery focus of these kits, ancestry testing can also lead to important medical history about genetic risks for major health concerns, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Celiac disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Late onset Alzheimer's disease

Additionally, 23andMe proved its value for medical history by identifying three BRCA gene variants most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and a hereditary colon cancer syndrome.

To be clear about the breakdown, it might seem like a loophole, but isn't. Kits like 23andMe use saliva samples to gather this genetic information. And as of right now, the IRS hasn't made a ruling on also getting ancestry testing from the same samples. Instead, they're leaving it to customers and the testing companies to use reasonable measures of determining the costs.

Thankfully, 23andMe is now offering a calculator to determine which portions are eligible for tax-free funds, including shipping and discounts.

We're in full support of this ruling, and hope it indicates more beneficial eligibility changes are on the horizon. As always, if there are major changes to HSA eligibility, we'll discuss it here.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Basics

Future Healthy: Approaching health care costs like a consumer

While many of the articles that appear in Future Healthy are focused on long-term savings and retirement, your future financial wellness is based on every spending decision you make today. Maybe the idea of negotiating health care prices like you're buying a car seems weird, but if there's ways to keep more money in your pocket, we're here to help you find them.

That's because it pays to shop around, even when it comes to medical care. According to a 2017 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 40% of adults 18-64 with employer-sponsored health insurance had high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). And it makes sense -- for relatively healthy people, HDHPs offer lower monthly premiums, and good coverage of basic preventive care. This is a wise spending decision, if you're relatively healthy.

But, because HDHP owners are responsible for the full costs of health care up until their deductible is paid in full for the year, customers should be more motivated to do a little comparison shopping for medications, products and services before making appointments.

So far, it doesn't seem like that's happening. According to a study from JAMA Internal Medicine, just 25% of HDHP owners discussed pricing with their providers, with a shocking 6% actually negotiating to lower prices of needed services. In other words, even though these patients are going to pay out-of-pocket for treatment, they're apparently not motivated to bargain.

But, if you have an HDHP (and hopefully an HSA to go with it) bargaining might make a big difference in your out-of-pocket costs as you work towards your deductible (and your long-term savings). Here are just a few of the many online resources available to boost your buying decisions.

Know the "fair price" for a procedure

You wouldn't walk into an auction with a $100 bill and expect to walk out with a Rembrandt. And you can't approach providers with a low-ball approach to finding the best price of treatment. That's where Healthcare Bluebook comes in.

This company was founded to create fairness in the healthcare marketplace, because a lack of visibility into the price of treatment. Run by a collective group of physicians, technicians and even financial strategists, Healthcare Bluebook gives you both price and quality comparisons to make you a smarter health consumer.

Start shopping around

New Choice Health seems similar to Healthcare Bluebook, but is a little more focused on giving you data on the best procedure prices. And they do it by having health care providers "compete" for your business, basically bidding on giving you the best possible care at a fair price.

The site also lists average costs of procedures (large and small), and allows you to contact them directly to save time and frustration.

Also, think about the value of your time. If you have an HDHP with a health savings account, and need to buy health care products, you can spare yourself the trouble of wondering about eligibility by shopping for 100% guaranteed HSA-eligible products at the site you're currently on.

(You didn't think we weren't going to mention our own site, did you?)

Don't skimp on quality

After seeing these links, you might have more motivation to save, but that means nothing if the quality of your healthcare isn't good. (In other words, that $199 colonoscopy banner ad? Don't bother clicking it.) Instead, turn to online tools that aggregate ratings, reviews, prices and more to help price-conscious patients find the best possible resources.

Organizations like The Leapfrog Group have spent the last 20 years encouraging purchasers and patients to be transparent, to improve health care safety and quality. They collect and report data for patients to choose the right hospital, whether it's about departments, treatments, or even overall satisfaction ratings. Patients can then make more informed decisions about their next steps.

Consumer favorites

Kanjo Aroma Mint Acupressure Pillow

Taken from ancient Chinese methodologies.

Band-Aid Sheer Variety Pack

Air channels for superior breathability.


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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

HSA Headlines - Healthy couples should still expect climbing medical costs

Just a few weeks after we reported on FSAstore.com that most people approaching retirement age are planning to stay in the workplace (mostly because of necessity) now we're seeing that healthy couples are likely to still pay exorbitant medical bills thanks to the same pattern of rising costs.

Yes, even the couple that jogs together daily and spends much more to eat right. They're still likely to feel the sting of inflation. Let's see what Lee Barney of PlanSponsor has to say about it.

Even Healthy Couples Will Face Extreme Health Care Costs in Retirement - Lee Barney, PlanSponsor

Why mince words? According to the article, "A healthy 65-year-old couple retiring this year will spend $369,000 in today's dollars on health care over their lifetime."

For baby boomers, this number seems large, but expected. However, when you do a little math, in 20 years, that same couple will have paid roughly $551,000 -- a 250% boost over the original total.

Of course, there are a lot of variables in play. Most notably, that the couple's health status remains consistent over the course of their lives. I think we can all assume this is a tough thing to assume, much less predict and calculate. But what's easier to predict is that health care costs will continue to rise, whether or not people are healthy.

The article cites another staggering figure (which we'll just repeat verbatim):

"Using the same assumptions applied to a healthy 65-year-old couple retiring in 2019, a healthy 45-year-old couple that retires at age 65 is projected to spend $532,000 on health care in 2019 dollars, and $1.4 million over their retirement years."

Yikes.

Part of this can be attributed to something the author reported on earlier this year about an EBRI report that explained how Medicare was never really designed to cover retiree health care costs in full -- a problem made worse by ongoing cutbacks to Medicare and retiree health plans, leaving patients to foot more of the bill each year.

While we can't (and won't) make predictions about the ever-changing state of health care costs, it's becoming increasingly important to have more safety nets in place to cover medical needs now and into your retirement.

Of course, speak with a qualified financial professional before making any adjustments to your planning. But if you're on the fence about opening an HSA (or making larger contributions to an existing one) you might want to consider the trend we just discussed to help guide your decision.

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HSA Headlines is a weekly roundup of the latest, most relevant news and conversations about your health savings. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the HSA Learning Center. And for more about your physical and financial well-being, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Taxes

Tax Facts: A closer look at qualifying life events

As a health savings account (HSA) holder, you rely on your tax-free funds to cover a huge range of qualifying products and services. But life happens, and needs change. Outside of an open enrollment period, if you're funding your HSA through payroll deductions, you're only allowed to make changes to your contributions if you experience a qualifying life event (QLE), if your plan allows for it. Of course, if you're funding an HSA on your own, and not from payroll deductions, you're eligible to change your contributions at any time.

Let's take a deeper dive into QLEs, and how you can adjust your coverage to better meet your changing needs. (This article is meant to inform you of the most-common QLEs, but isn't meant to be an exhaustive list. For specifics about your account, talk to your plan administrator.)

So, what exactly is a QLE?

This might be one of the most-common questions we hear throughout the year. A QLE refers is any event defined by IRS section 125 that lets you change your insurance elections outside of open enrollment.

Here are the specific events that can give you a chance to raise or reduce your allocations:

  1. A change in your number of tax dependents: If you have a child that starts working and gets their own health coverage, you can make mid-year changes to account for the reduction. And the same goes for taking on a new dependent, in case your household is expanding.
  2. A change in your legal marital status: This includes marriage, legal separation, divorce or death of a spouse. Keep in mind that "legal" has different meanings in each state, so be sure to check with your plan administrator to be 100% sure your union qualifies for mid-year changes.
  3. Death of a dependent: It's never fun to think about this, but a death of a dependent allows you to make mid-year changes to your health care elections, so you can adjust your coverage and payments accordingly.
  4. Birth of a child, adoption of a child, or placement for adoption: Not only will bringing home a baby require obvious new health coverage, but adoption might also make you want to consider a companion dependent care FSA to help cover the costs of childcare, if needed.
  5. A change in your employment status: More specifically, any change (like layoffs) that affects eligibility for health insurance benefits for yourself, a spouse or one of your dependents. Promotions at work likely won't count for this, unless the promotion comes with a different tier of health benefits.
  6. A change in your dependents' eligibility: An example would be if your child turns 13 and no longer qualifies for coverage under a dependent care FSA.

What should I do if I experience a QLE?

When one of these events takes place or is around the corner, you should speak with your HSA administrator within 30 days of the event to make the necessary changes. Chances are, you'll need a good amount of supporting documentation to prove the life event, so have your records handy and up-to-date.

It's important to remember that not all employers offer mid-year changes to HSAs, so speaking with your benefits administrator about the regulations within your account is extremely important.

With the right guidance qualifying life events can be a little more manageable and can act like a second chance at open enrollment. Eligible dependents can take advantage of a qualifying life event to modify or elect new coverage, and can also cancel coverage they no longer need, potentially saving money each month, and again on tax day.

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Tax Facts is a column offering straight up, no-nonsense HSA tax tips, written in everyday language. Look for it on Tuesdays, exclusively on the HSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.