Dodging Deductibles

Now is the time to schedule appointments to maximize 2019 benefits.

The end of the year can be a busy time. Work, school and community activities, along with holiday preparations, can make people’s lives a whirlwind. It’s no surprise then that maximizing health care benefits doesn’t top the mind when heartwarming television specials start airing and the aroma of pumpkin pie fills the house.

However, you could be leaving money on the table if you don’t pay attention and schedule your much-needed medical appointments, warn the staff at Akumin, an outpatient imaging center that specializes in x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, mammograms, CTs and DEXA scans.

“We want our patients to come in before the year ends so they can take advantage of having met their deductibles and be able to use the money in their health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts,” says Janice Sklar, an Akumin account executive.

At Akumin, the staff wants to help their patients get the most of their insurance, so they make an effort to accommodate everyone who needs imaging services any time of year. They’re open on Saturdays and offer extended hours, with morning and evening appointments during the week to accommodate those who work. For some exams, walk-in service is also available.

Most people with health insurance have a deductible. That’s the amount people must pay for covered services before their insurance plan starts to pay. The deductible is generally assessed at the beginning of each plan year, often in January. To make the most of their insurance benefits, people try to have their routine health services completed by the end of their plan year.

“Usually by the second half of the year, most patients have hit that deductible, so they have a short period of time to get in for any other testing before January 1,” Janice explains. “Come January 1, their deductibles start all over again. We want them to get their exams while insurance is paying.”

It makes good financial sense for people to get all of their health needs addressed before a new deductible is assessed. However, Janice encourages people to schedule their appointments throughout the year instead of waiting until the last few months.

“There can be problems when everybody waits to get their services at the end of the year,” she notes. “Schedules get busy, physicians get busy, and patients are competing with others for appointment times. Sometimes, because they waited, patients have trouble getting appointments and get kicked into the new year and a new deductible.

“Getting things done when people want to do them can be difficult; I know how life is. Family, work and other factors get in the way. But patients need to make plans for themselves and their families. They need to take the time to get the services done that they’ve been postponing before the end of the year.”

Tax-Free Savings

Tax-advantaged plans such as flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, and some health savings accounts, or HSAs, also need to be spent before the ball drops in Times Square.

FSAs are accounts offered by employers that let workers deduct a certain amount of money from their paychecks each year. This money is not taxed and may be used to cover certain health care expenses allowed by law. In most cases, money left unspent by year’s end is forfeited.

“If a patient doesn’t use it, they lose it,” Janice warns.

The same can be true of HSAs, depending on the employer. While some allow workers to roll over money from year to year, others have to be exhausted within a calendar year.

In both accounts, patients typically save their receipts or explanations of benefits (EOBs) and file claims, although some plans also provide debit cards.

Choosing an outpatient imaging center is less expensive for patients than going to a hospital emergency room, Janice explains, as hospitals are allowed to bill at higher rates.

Unlike large hospitals and hospital systems, which offer outpatient imaging as an ancillary service, Akumin is dedicated solely to outpatient imaging. They don’t offer any other health care services. As a result, they can devote all their resources to continually improving the quality of their services as well as their care to patients and referring physicians.

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    • Akumin

      Akumin’s Deltona facility has been providing superior imaging services to the local community for over 40 years. Centrally located in Deltona, next to the neighborhood Walmart, this 5,500 sq ft facility has outside front door parking and wheel... Read More