Thinking Ahead
June 05, 2017

Thinking Ahead: Seven Strategies for Spending Your HSA Dollars Wisely

One key reason that healthcare spending account (HSA) plans are an increasingly popular option with employers is that they offer a direct incentive for employees to make careful decisions with their healthcare dollars.  For employees, an HSA plan offers maximum flexibility with coverage for a wide range of expenses compared to a traditional plan.  But because an HSA comes with a fixed dollar limit, it's essential to make every dollar count.

Common sense and smart shopping can go a long way to control costs, but there are insider tips that can help to get the most out of an HSA plan.   An important part of our on-boarding process with new clients is an information session where we discuss proven methods that help reduce healthcare expenses.

Before making a healthcare purchase decision, it would be wise to consider these 7 strategies to keep costs low:

Talk to your pharmacist about generic substitution for prescription medications.  Generic medications in Canada are required to contain the identical medicinal ingredients and dosages as the brand drug. They are proven to be safe and as clinically effective as the brand version, but at a much lower cost.

Coordinate benefits with other plans first.  HSA plans always pay last for coordination of benefits, so you can maximize the benefits available to you by claiming first under a spouse's traditional plan.

Comparison shop.  Everyone knows you can shop around for retail deals, but this is also true for medical devices and services.  For example, the identical model of TENS machine costs about $125 from a medical supply company, but can cost more than $500 when purchased from a rehabilitation clinic.  It's worth looking around for comparable prices before you buy.

Apply for prescription payment assistance cards.  Pharmaceutical companies offer savings programs to help patients with the cost of prescriptions, with simple application on-line or by phone (see our More Resources page for two of these programs).  These cards can provide savings at the point of sale, before you submit a claim to your benefits plan.

Check for provincial benefits available to you.  In Ontario, the Assistive Devices Program provides coverage for certain conditions and expenses. The Ontario Drug Benefit is the first payor for residents age 65 and over. In addition OHIP covers eye examinations for those under 20, over 64, and for certain specific eye conditions.

Ask about providers' fees.  Dispensing fees differ between pharmacies, and dental offices can also vary in their standard charges for regular treatments.  Some practitioners will offer a package price, such as monthly or family service packages from a chiropractor.

Budget ahead for larger expenses.  Many HSA plans include a carry-forward provision.  This can allow you to save funds from one year and carry them forward into the next year, to pay for a larger expense incurred in the second year.

A careful approach to spending helps both employers and employees to maximize the value of their benefits plan.  Even if your benefits plan doesn't include an HSA, traditional health and dental plans are priced based on the total claims paid, so avoiding excess expenses will help to control cost increases at renewal.  Call Beagle Benefits for plan design ideas and other strategies that will help your business.