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Ends. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
The kids' visit ended Saturday after we ate dinner and finished the second half of the Into the Woods DVD.  Before we ate, we took care of some unfinished business out front: adding the ashes of Tasha (our first dog) and Arthur (their second cat) to the garden where Bozo, Esmeralda and Biggs all preceded them.  The two of them never met, but I like to think they'd have gotten along.

Westley, now almost four months old, spent almost the entire day sleeping in their room. I was in and out of there with various computer things, and he mostly just lay quietly while I gave him scritches and snugs.  His older sister ranged from near-violent at first to mostly-indifferent by the end.

The reno has also passed a significant turn, as Eleanor grouted the new tile yesterday.  She learned a lot about the how from a bunch of Youtubes while she was doing it; I got a decent lesson in masonry as she explained much of the why.

While she was doing that, I tackled another of my Big Ugly projects:

Hi, my name is Ray, and I have an HDHP.


That's Obamacarese for "high deductible health plan," for which you cover a certain portion of your medical visits and procedures yourself before the plan pays for anything beyond preventive and partial prescription coverage.

Lots of Republicants complain about many plans now having high deductibles, but what they don't tell you is that you still pay substantially less than the "rack rate" for everything just because you have the coverage.  We both have deductible-based plans (as does Emily, who is no longer a dependent), but mine meets the High Deductible definition, as the first $2,000 is on my dime.  There's good news that goes with that, though: that height makes me eligible to pay those medical bills, and others not covered by my medical insurance (such as dental), and Eleanor's similar expenses by using a Health Savings Account.

This might have been George W. Bush's only good idea in eight years.  HSA's were added as part of the Medicare prescription drug coverage bill, replacing an earlier trial version that had been limited to very few employers.  For most Murkins, tax law provides little benefit if you get sick: unless your medical expenses exceed an ever-growing percentage of your income (10 percent for most people now), you get to deduct nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!

Before 2003, the only widely available alternative was something called a Flexible Spending Account; they still exist, but as Gene Wilder explained in another role, they are doo-doo!  They are funded and are required to be spent down annually, and it's use-it-or-lose-it or your money reverts back to the employer.  They have also been limited since first put in; you used to be able to spend the account funds on over-the-counter meds, anything remotely medical, but now it's just prescriptions and professionals for the most part.  They're still better than nothing, though, because they're deducted pre-tax without you having to hit that 10 percent floor first.

But HSA's are better, because you keep the money you don't spend year to year.  There's a maximum you can deduct from your income when doing your taxes, not subject to any floor, and old farts like us get to contribute more (this year, it's $4,350). Since my deductible is $2,000 and Eleanor's is $500 (I can pay her expenses from it, too), that gives you room to cover the co-pays on meds and other procedures up to our out-of-pocket maximums, dental care, and to save anything not spent toward future years and possible major expenses like major teethy repairs.

Shortened version: you sock away money that lowers the family tax bill and gives you the ability to pay your medical bills as they come in- and to save that money if they don't. Last year, I was lucky, and had over $1,700 left of what I'd put in during the year. Good thing, too- because between the Foot Thing and Eleanor still having residual treatments from her own Thing of a year ago (plus the Lab Bills From Hell that would've wiped out the entire surplus and then some, until they finally got busted down to near nothingness just a few months ago), we've needed every cent that's gone in there so far.

Because taxes are involved, you are required to keep records; the money can only be spent on qualified medical expenses. And we have a lot of them: we're refilling over half a dozen maintenance meds on anything from a monthly to a quarterly basis, and while Wegmans (mostly) fills them quickly, cheaply and conveniently, each one generates a lot of paperwork. There's the actual prescription receipt taking up half an 8½x11 sheet; there's the register receipt debiting the HSA Mastercard (we each have one); the antidepressants come with the extra blinding-black-type suicide warnings; and they throw in coupons and other promotional materials.  These tend to come home at day's end when we're tired and they thus have wound up in....  The Binder.  That's also where the smaller in number, bigger in amount receipts go from dentists, opticians and various fixers of feet.  And, yes, at least once, each, somebody's screwed up and swiped the health debit card for gasoline (me) or bagels (her). In theory, we can lose our deduction for these amounts plus have to pay a penalty for the unhealthy withdrawals- but also in theory, we can offset the other kind of screwup where we pay something in cash out of pocket that could've been debited to the HSA.

Point is, you need records of everything- and until Sunday around 6 p.m., those records were an absolute pigmess.

We began this in 2012, when I had an HSA. I kept the receipts meticulously all year, and continued into 2013, when Wegmans first offered such a plan and Eleanor opened her own through a different, but local bank. It was a pain: even though I use them for my business and they have eight branches within five miles, they only took HSA deposits by mail (to Milwaukee, of all places), and the branches had no records of anything- it was exclusively online with a hideously oversecure website.  For 2014, she switched to a lower-deductible employer plan and I moved up to the one I have now, reactivating the HSA we just didn't use for all of 2013.

So the Big Ugly Task yesterday was to organize receipts for the last few months of 2013 (I'd given up keeping track of it all around that September, when she had a shoulder injury followed by PT that generated a thousand paper cuts of tiny $10 receipts), all of 2014, and the first six months of this year. It's not done-done, but the years are separated; all the statements for 2014 and this year to date have been printed and matched with the receipts for them; all the extraneous Wegmans crap has been either pitched or turned into scrap paper; and The Binder is now just this year's statements and receipts, all in order.

There are still some hiccups.  For one, I still need to print the last three months of 2013 from Eleanor's account, and their website security locked me out of it yesterday, requiring her to call when we're both here to do it.  Fortunately, it did remember the "password image and phrase" I set up on it three years back:

That should make for a fun discussion when I call the tech support number;)
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yesididit From: yesididit Date: July 8th, 2015 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
you have to be ABLE to sock away money in the first place to use an HSA. most people suck at socking away money.

for me, being on untaxed SSDI income, it saves me nothing to use an HSA. but back 9 years ago when i last worked a full time job, the employer offered flex spending plans existed and thats how i paid for my laser vision correction surgery that cost $3300. and that was nice! very helpful. but yeah back then if you didnt use the money you put in there, you lost it.
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