Four Strategies for Lowering Your Health Care Costs this Cold Season

November 28, 2006

How much time and money did you lose last year because of a winter bug?

Unfortunately, it’s that time of the year again; use these four simple suggestions to keep your body healthy and your wallet fat.

1) Get Your Flu Shot
A recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc survey estimates that 15 million to 60 million Americans get the flu each year, costing companies nearly $10 billion in paid sick leave. Many employers are taking note of this and offering free flu shots to their employees.

If you can’t get a free shot, pay for one yourself. A 2002 study by the Stanford School of Medicine concluded that the benefits of getting a flu shot outweigh the cost.

2) Keep Your Hands Clean
One thing we look for in personal finance is a way to leverage a great return out of only a small investment. Well, investing a small amount of time washing your hands can pay off big time keeping you healthy according to this article by the Mayo Clinic.

Whether you use soap & water or hand sanitizer, keeping your hands free of germs can help not only you but everyone around you. This article claims that “even such threats as bird flu would spread significantly more slowly if we just washed our hands regularly”.

How can the employees for the companies you invest in be productive and grow at least 10% a year if they’re all laid up with the flu? If everyone washed their hands maybe our stocks would perform better! This CBS News article reports that 2/3 of Americans admit they might not always wash their hands properly. Are you the one dragging down the national GDP by not washing your hands!

3) Buy the Store Brand OTC Medicine
Many of the name brand over the counter remedies have a store brand equivalent. Instead of Sudafed, buy Wal-Phed at Walgreens. Instead of Robitussin buy Tussin at CVS. While the name brand medicines can cost 2-3 times more, the generics contain the same active ingredients and are just as effective. If you have a cold that sticks around for a few weeks, the savings can really add up.

4) Use Your Flexible Spending Account
If you participate in your employer’s flexible spending account or cafeteria plan, sign up for a flexible spending debit card through the plan provider. One example is the FlexDirect card from ADP. Instead of paying cash and applying for reimbursement purchases made with the card draw directly from your flexible spending account.

One thing I’m guilty of is losing a receipt or forgetting to file for reimbursement for a $4 over the counter medicine. These little costs can add up if you’re frequently sick during the year. If you use the debit card the money is taken right out of your flexible spending account.

If your flexible spending plan doesn’t offer a debit card, watch your receipt. Stores such as Walgreens are now labeling purchases on your bill that qualify for flexible spending account reimbursement. Make sure you don’t miss these items.

Prevention is the Best Cure
How long does it take to get an annual flu shot? How much extra time would you spend every day just washing your hands? A little bit of time invested can save you big bucks this cold season.

If some of the germs slip by, you can buy store brand medicine and take advantage of your flexible spending account to reduce your health care costs.

Wishing You a Healthy & Wealthy Winter!


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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