Tag: Health Insurance

Using a Health Saving Account (HSA) with Direct Primary Care

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30 July 2020

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog: Using a Health Savings Account (HSA) with Direct Primary Care. In Beyond Primary Care blogs I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is an insurance free, membership based family medicine and addiction medicine clinic. Beyond Primary Care is the only Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County giving families and employers peace of mind with healthcare costs by providing affordable, accessible, and authentic primary care services.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I wanted to talk about the Health Saving Accounts (HSAs), what they are and how to get one, why they are beneficial for healthcare, how to use it with Direct Primary Care. 

Health Saving Accounts: Explained

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a type of savings account where individuals or families can set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. 

Yup, you read that right- PRE-TAX: if you make a dollar and need to spend that buck on healthcare, it is a full dollar you get to use, not some percentage.

How did this come about? Great question- HSAs are designed to offset some of the expenses of a High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) such as deductibles and copayments. To qualify for a HSA, you must have a HDHP, defined as an annual out-of-pocket deductible of $1,350 for single coverage or $2,700 for family coverage. I wrote a blog co-authored by a financial advisor that details the financial benefits of HDHPs.

High deductible insurance plans allow you to be covered for major “catastrophic” medical problems: eg- hospitalizations, surgeries, etc- in exchange to agree to pay more money out of your pocket for most or all medical expenses up to a certain limit. Once that limit is met, the consumer could expect near 100% coverage.

For 2020, if you have an HDHP, you can contribute to your HSA up to $3,500 for self-only coverage, and up to $7,100 for family coverage keeping in mind the limits can change year to year.

What are Qualified Medical Expenses

Before dealing what is a ‘Qualified’ medical expenses, let’s first discuss what exactly ‘Medical Expenses’ are. According to IRS publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses, medical expenses are the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and for the purpose of affecting any part or function of the body. These payments include payments for legal medical services rendered by physicians, surgeons, dentists, and other medical practitioners. 

‘Qualified’ or eligible medical expenses are described by IRS code section 213(d). This list is long and includes:

How having a Health Savings Account is Beneficial

The HSA provides funds that can be used to pay day-to-day healthcare expenses. HSA benefits important to understand include:

  • They are tax-free, meaning contributions go in tax-free and withdrawals are taken tax-free provided they’re spent to cover qualified medical expenses. 
  • HSA don’t require you to do mandatory withdrawals every year, so you can leave your balance in there to stay put or grow until a large medical expense presents itself. 
  • Highlighting the importance of the previous benefit, another benefit is that HSAs don’t have to be used up on a yearly basis. 
  • HSAs can be funded through employers to varying degrees.
  • There are not income limits to contribute to HSAs.

Using a Health Saving Account (HSA) with Direct Primary Care

Like hundreds of other Direct Primary Care (DPC) clinics across the nation, Beyond Primary Care DOES allow our members to use HSA funds to pay for their membership.

The US department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) defines DPC as a primary care service, NOT insurance (or a health plan). 

Additionally, the ACA allows coupling DPC with a ‘wrap-around’ qualifying health plan, stating that HHS “Shall permit a qualified health plan to provide coverage through a qualified direct primary care medical home that meets criteria established by the Secretary.” Combining the definition from the HHS (not insurance) with HSA eligibility under the ACA allows DPC to embody the premise of HSA in the patient-centered free market.

If needed by the administrators of your HSA and requested by you (our member), Beyond Primary Care will provide an itemized bill with your encounter dates, billing codes, and medical service fees.

HSAs work with the Right Insurance

Many people who talk with me know I don’t hesitate for a second to discuss the unbalanced, non-transparent, maddening administrative business that is health insurance. People know that medical expenses are the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. However, what people don’t realize is that 75% of those individuals actually did have some type of health insurance. Health insurance is the ONLY insurance that bankrupts folks when they use it. 

All insurance, since humans first invented it, was designed for one thing and one thing only… to protect us from catastrophic loss. 

High Deductible Health Plans are designed to protect us from catastrophic loss. When health insurance is used in this way, a significant amount of money can be saved through reduced monthly premiums and a cost-conscious individual can shop around for the best price for office visits, medications, blood work, imaging, and more.

Note: this blog post is not a substitute for tax advice nor does it suggest how to handle your own unique tax circumstances. If you require tax advice, you should seek the services of a competent professional. 

Medicare for All Act of 2019

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16 July 2019

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I will not discuss my personal political views nor will I use this as a medium for healthcare horror stories, like this sad story, this sad story, or this frustrating story… because we have heard these before. In this blog I will discuss facts of what I learned from 1) attending the EMU hosted event for ‘Medicare for All,’ and 2) reading through all the pages available online regarding H.R. 1384.

Medicare for All 

I recently attended a town hall hosted at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on Saturday July 13th where Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (Michigan’s 12th District), Congresswoman Primila Jayapal (State of Washington 7th District), State Senator Jeff Irwin (Michigan’s 18th Senate District), State Representative Yousef Rabhi (Michigan’s 53rd District), State Representative Ronnie Peterson (Michigan’s 54th District), as well as Michigan Nurse Association Vice President Katie Scott were all discussing the ‘Medicare for All Act of 2019.’

They were having a discussion about H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 which is a bill that would establish a national health insurance program to cover all U.S. residents. Currently (as of 7/15/19) the bill has 117 co-sponsors. 

Speaker Panel Talking Points

To start with the discussion at EMU, I always appreciate an elected officials time (especially on a Saturday night) to discuss what impacts our community. Yes, they did start the panel discussion late, exactly 20 minutes- much like an overfilled physicians waiting room. However, much like those doctors we want to see, we can look past that.

To briefly summarize what they discussed, I felt the panel discussion had an overall vibe of a small group rally for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ with very little substance discussed. To be fair, each speaker only had about 5 minutes. However, 5 minutes should be enough time to pitch something they want to sell. And let’s be honest, our elected officials were trying to sell this bill to the room.

Debbie Dingell

To start with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell’s talk, it was heavy on current healthcare disparity statistics in the US. She did offer some brief talking points such as “We are going to a single billing system that will eliminate a lot of costs.”

The bill claims savings of $500+ billion annually from reductions in costs of billing and administrative costs.

As you can see below of the graph of physicians and administrators from 1970 to 2009, administrative costs are having a major impact on healthcare spending. 

I am curious to see how exactly they will implement this administrative cost savings. Does this mean simply cutting back (i.e.- firing) extra staffing? Those are jobs too. Many physician offices utilize administrative staffing such as front desk receptionists, a dedicated phone staff, nurse triage staff, laboratory staff, billing staff, imaging staff, medical record staff, transcription staff, and office management. 

Primila Jayapal

Congresswoman Primila Jayapal was next. Seattle, you should be proud, you elected a great official. I would be proud to have her represent me if I were there. I was impressed because I felt she actually covered more substance in her discussion than any of the other speakers regarding the ‘Medicare for All Act.’ She states the act will have four components:

  1. Cover Everyone ( Dr. O’Boyle likes this )
  2. No copays or deductibles and be able to go to any doctor or hospital you want to.
  3. Comprehensive coverage including primary care, vision, dental, substance abuse, mental health, maternal care, and more.
  4. Control costs.

Yay! Some material I can work with. Then congresswoman Jayapal says with these ‘controlled costs’ we will pay 14% less then now. WHAT! 14% ?? So that MRI, instead of being $1,400 is now $200 less? That colonoscopy that is billed at $5,000 is now only $4,300. This cost savings is not significant nor will it move the economic needle of medical costs.

Reading through H.R. 1384, I could honestly find only one section (616): Payments for Prescription Drugs and Approved Devices and Equipment that discussed any effort to reduce healthcare expenditure.

Has she heard of Direct Primary Care (DPC)? Does she know I can get a member an MRI for $300, or a colonoscopy for $700? Direct Primary Care is moving the needle on medical cost economics by saving our patients anywhere from 50-90% off of insurance billed costs.

Jeff Irwin

Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin spoke next. Again, a good speaker. He discussed how doctors are fighting insurance companies over billing and how much a wasteful system this results in. Senator Irwin did say something I believe is important when discussing healthcare: speaking about what people value in their health and healthcare coverage. But, nothing that added any insight on the actual bill. 

Yousef Rabhi

State Representative Yousef Rabhi discussed efforts from a Michigan effort to start universal healthcare plan called ‘MiCare.’ In an acknowledgement of supporting information to Representative Rabhi, he did discuss how he plans to fund MiCare through a vote of the people in Michigan for progressive taxation. Yet, to be fair to the audience, I felt his talk was a bit of a curve ball as all other speakers were focused on the federal bill and not the state bill. 

Ronnie Peterson

State Representative Ronnie Peterson added some personal stories about his history of fighting for racial equality and now fighting for healthcare equality. Again, his talk was touching but added no material onto why or how the ‘Medicare for All Act’ would work.

Katie Scott

The last speaker was Katie Scott, the vice-president of the Michigan Nursing Association. From her talk, I was able to pick out that she was an Intensive Care Unit  (ICU) nurse. Again with the story telling theme of the night, she gave a personal narrative of high prescription drug costs and how that impacted her. 

I absolutely love what nurses do and think their roles are critical towards healthcare. However, ICU nurses and the need they fill are vastly different than what primary care doctors see and what a vast majority of people experience when we think of and utilize healthcare. 

If the elected officials pushing for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ want to be serious, they need to get feedback and collaborate with the primary care providers out there already making changes in their communities. Instead of pushing for town halls on why we need change, Direct Primary Doctors are having town halls in communities on how we are already changing healthcare to improve patient access, improve price transparency, and reduce out of pocket costs on everything from office visits, medications, imaging, speciality care, and laboratory studies.

Improve Your Financial Health

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20 April 2019

Dr. Jeff O’Boyle with Beyond Primary Care teams up with Dennis LaVoy CFP® CLU® with Telos Financial to discuss ways individuals, businesses, and families can free up cash flow.