How To ‘Hack’ Your Health Savings Account

How To ‘Hack’ Your Health Savings Account

On the latest edition of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, respected Houston based neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein describes how people can best use the often-overlooked benefit known as the Health Savings Account.

The Health Savings Account, or HSA, is a type of savings account that is used for medical expenses. Congress established them in 2003 for those with high deductible health insurance. It is a way to pay cash for routine medical care with pretax dollars. Because the HSA requires a high deductible health insurance account, routine healthcare expenses are not covered, but can be paid for by the HSA. HSA’s are potentially a good value for those who can take advantage.

The High Deductible Health Insurance Plan

A high deductible insurance plan is one where the deductible is higher than with other policies. The ‘deductible’ is the amount the patient has to pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in. A high deductible is usually between $3,000 – $10,000. “Of course, the higher the deductible; the lower the premium,” Dr. Goldstein told his listeners.

Who Should Consider an HSA?

First, who is this not for? “If you are already sickly and have $5-10,000 in medical expenses every year, the high deductible policy with HSA is probably not for you,” Dr. Goldstein said. “The time to start a high deductible plan with HSA is when you are young and well. Even if you had $10,000 in expenses in one year, it is highly unlikely these expenses would continue every year.”

Tax Free Deposits

The money deposited into the HSA account is not taxed. Many companies contribute to an employee’s HSA to encourage its use. Further, HSAs feature a triple-tax benefit: money the employee contributes to the HSA can be written off on taxes and thus reduce an income tax bill. “Money in your HSA grows tax free, Dr. Goldstein reported. “When you withdraw money for qualified medical expenses, no tax is paid on the withdrawal. However, if you withdraw money for non-medical expenses, you do pay tax as well as a penalty.”

About the Houston Healthcare Initiative Podcast

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To hear the podcast go to: SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Backtracks, LibSyn, or the website at www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org. Dr. Goldstein insists that for the health and welfare of the American public, the congress must pass reforms that limit the influence of the pharmaceutical industry and its lobby. Houston Healthcare Initiative seeks to change the way people think about healthcare. Find healthcare pricing and local provider rates!

 

Did The Covid-19 Pandemic Cost You Your Job and Health Insurance?

In a time when so many lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 Pandemic….

Job & Health Insurance Loss Come and Go Together; How To Find Affordable Coverage

March 2, 2021 — In December 2020, 66% of Americans who answered a survey said they fear they won’t be able to afford health care this year. Of the 41% of respondents who are very or moderately concerned about health-care costs, 53% are parents with children. The amount of people who were and remain unemployed because of the Covid-19 pandemic remains high. Since most individuals get their health insurance with their jobs, those same folks are also in need of medical coverage.

On his regular podcast, Houston based neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative Dr. Steven Goldstein has immediate and affordable medical insurance solutions for those who need coverage. To hear the podcast visit: Apple Podcasts, Radio.com, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, and the Houston Healthcare Initiative web site. Job & Health Insurance Loss Come and Go Together.

Use the Obama Care National Marketplace

People who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have the burden of finding work and paying for healthcare. As most people’s healthcare is tied to their jobs. “There are alternatives for people who lost both their jobs and accompanying health insurance,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. “The key for those people to get covered is to act quickly.”

One reason for this is that job loss qualifies Americans for a special enrollment period in the health insurance marketplace regulated by the U.S. government, but it only lasts 60 days. “Normally the enrollment period for this is in the month of November, but job loss allows an exception. Just remember the 60-day deadline,” Dr. Goldstein said.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance will sometimes offer more flexibility than standard coverage. For example, short-term policies lasting up to one year are available in many states. There are differences between health insurance and private health insurance. People buy private health insurance many times because their place of employment does not offer it. In the case of people who lost their employer provided health insurance, purchasing it like this is an option. Private health insurance is often an option for those who work part time, are self-employed, or own a small business.

Health Co-Ops

Health insurance co-ops are private health insurance plans that serve a small group of people and are owned and operated by the members of that group. The health co-operative or co-op is a member owned not for profit corporation. They are run democratically by the members.

The real benefit of health insurance co-ops are they are significantly cheaper than regular health insurance. “The monthly fees are called membership fees, not premiums, Dr. Goldstein said. “The average cost of a co-op membership is about $40 to $90. To put that into perspective, regular COBRA insurance premiums can cost as much as $650 per month.”

Job loss is unnerving enough at any time. Losing health coverage during a pandemic makes that level of anxiety even higher. Because no one wants to be without medical insurance when a previously unseen virus is spreading.  It could make you or a loved one sick at the worst possible time. Fortunately there are reasons to be optimistic about getting health insurance that is affordable and obtainable if action is taken sooner than later.

The amount of information about this and other similar issues grows ever higher at the Houston Healthcare Initiative web site and its social media sites. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative go to www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Job & Health Insurance Loss Come and Go Together.

Hospital Price Transparency & The Creative Ways Hospitals Find To Avoid Posting Their Prices For The Public

Lacking transparency
Lacking transparency for hospitals and healthcare.

Some of the most creative writing in business lately are the ‘reasons’ why hospitals and other healthcare providers are not able to post their prices, as the law requires. Respected Houston based neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative, Dr. Steven Goldstein, understands the letter and intent of the new rules on price transparency for healthcare providers and hospitals. Specifically, all the new rules that call for these medical suppliers to essentially post their price list. What the spirit of these new rules intended and what is happening in practice are not quite the same. To hear all of his insights tune to the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Radio.Com,LibSyn, Spotify, Podcast Addict, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Backtracks, Podbay, Podbean, and other places where podcasts are syndicated.

Claiming They Do Not Know

The big idea here was to make all of the prices, different rates, payer specific costs charged by insurance companies all more available and more transparent to patients. Sounds easy enough. But, according to the healthcare industry, procedures and services are often not as cut and dried as placing a price tag on a service and charging your insurance. According to them, some procedures can affect patients differently, causing them to have different levels of care and other needs that all have different prices.

Many healthcare providers also cannot say upfront what exactly the price will be, because doctors do not know the extent of the services until they begin offering care. “Hospitals do not want to be pinned down on prices other than to say, ‘it depends’ which is not much of an explanation,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. “Some hospitals only posted price estimates, uploaded files in difficult to use formats, or promised to release information only after someone enters their insurance information. In New York City, a published investigation found only a handful of hospitals in that city complying while the rest were less than upfront.”

More Reasons To Not Comply

There are other reasons cited for non-compliance. Like the American Hospital Association claim that staff who would help with compliance are stretched thin because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “But the bottom line is that price competition only works if those involved are really competing, Dr. Goldstein said. “Without price disclosure, competition remains very elusive.”

Price Transparency Background

As of January 1, 2021, hospitals are required to make prices, those payer-negotiated rates for their services, available online in a readable format. In late 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the final rules on price transparency for healthcare providers. Prior to the release of these new rules, health insurance companies, and healthcare providers like hospitals negotiated prices for all the things they do for patients and did not make any of this information public. What this arrangement meant was that patients did not know what they would pay for treatment, tests, surgery, drugs and everything else until after they were treated and received the bill. “There is a lot of potential benefit for the American public when or if these rules are fully adopted and made more available for the public,” Dr. Goldstein said.

About The Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative (HHI) is a member owned, non-profit medical co-op. Led by Houston based neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein, the HHI will replace traditional health insurance for qualified individuals and families and provide incentives for members to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. HHI will provide affordable medical coverage through a combination of negotiated rates, low monthly payments, personal accountability and lifestyle incentives. The medical co-op promises to save qualifying individuals and families money on health insurance. At the same time, HHI will help uphold quality care by asking members to bear some responsibility and individual accountability for maintaining their personal health.

 

In The Global Covid-19 Pandemic Who Suffers Most?

In The Global Covid-19 Pandemic Who Suffers Most?

January 5, 2021 – In the midst of an ongoing and worsening global pandemic, there are those who are more likely to be sicker and die than others. This according to respected neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein, founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative. He told his regular podcast audience that the mortality rate from the Covid-19 infection was greater for patients with obesity, chronic lung disease, diabetes and hypertension and that the older a patient was, the greater the mortality.  “The Covid-19 pandemic teaches us that improving public health should be a priority in reforming healthcare,” Dr. Goldstein said. The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on Backtracks,SoundCloud, Libsyn, Listen Notes, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and the Houston Healthcare Initiative web site.

When things are uncertain
Americans remain in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. What can we learn from it and how can this influence our thinking when it comes to personal lifestyle choices and healthcare reform?

Mayo Clinic Data

According to the Mayo Clinic web site, risk of severe Covid-19 is highest based on age; older people are at higher risk than those who are younger. Other conditions include type 2 diabetes, severe obesity and serious heart diseases. The site states, “obesity and diabetes both reduce the efficiency of a person’s immune system. Diabetes increases the risk of infections in general. The risk of infections, including COVID-19, can be reduced by keeping blood sugar levels controlled and continuing your diabetes medications and insulin.”

What Individuals Can Control

Dr. Goldstein said that people can take control of their own health by leading a healthier lifestyle. “By this I mean maintaining a modicum of physical fitness and being compliant with medical treatment if you have a chronic illness like diabetes and hypertension,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. These and other voluntary measures like quitting smoking, moderating alcohol consumption and eating sensibly will help prevent an infection of Covid-19 or keep one from being more serious.

Freedom & Responsibility

Dr. Goldstein believes that in the New Year, the congress should find a balance of individual freedom, responsibility and monetary incentives for a better, national outcome. “People should have the freedom to adopt any lifestyle they wish as long as they do not interfere with anyone else. But, along with that freedom comes the responsibility to pay for it,” Dr. Goldstein said.   He mentioned how the government frequently uses its power to promote lifestyle choices. “For example, they impose high taxes on cigarettes to discourage tobacco use. But it does not outlaw the use of cigarettes. If anyone wants to lower their healthcare costs, they can adopt a healthier lifestyle.”

About the Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative please visit www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Photo Caption: Americans remain in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. What can we learn from it and how can this influence our thinking when it comes to personal lifestyle choices and healthcare reform?

A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding of Hydroxychloroquine

A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding Hydroxychloroquine

A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding of Hydroxychloroquine. No one can unring a bell. When articles published in the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine published and then retracted an article critical about the possible use of hydroxychloriquine as a treatment for Coronavirus/Covid-19 they may have shown good faith with the retractions but the damage was done. On his regular podcast, Dr. Steven Goldstein discusses how and why the use of an inexpensive drug was widely criticized. An article from Tablet magazine (Hydroxychloroquine: A Morality Tale) describes the issue in detail.

The criticisms were based on the retracted articles, but there was more to it. Political agendas and money both added to the manufactured confusion about a drug that was used to treat malaria, lupus and others without controversy. Dr. Goldstein believes that reforms for government and the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry were never more obvious than in this example. A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding of Hydroxychloroquine.