Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tips For Taking Responsibility For Your Own Health and Understanding the Health Care Account

Dr. Curot: Yeah. That’s always one of the first things that comes up. Here’s my belief on this. The reality is that more people these days have a greater financial stake in their health or sickness than ever before. There’s a growing trend that I predict will continue to grow, obviously depending on what happens as our new president comes in and what policies may take place, but the reality will be no matter what happens, consumers will be at greater risk financially the more they are at greater risk with their health. Thuat’s just going to be the trend.

So what really needs to happen for people is they have to realize that their health is their responsibility. Our health is our responsibility. Up until recently I believe that the consciousness that people have had, consumers have had, is that, “If it has to do with my health it should be covered by my insurance.” It’s the only place in our economy that we believe should be free and taken care of. I think it’s our responsibility as providers to start waking people up to the facts.

The facts are that your health insurance is really more like your car insurance. Most people don’t expect their car insurance to cover gas and tires and wipers and even little minor fender-benders. Most everybody knows that if you go to your insurance if you have even a minor fender-bender, what’s going to happen to your insurance rates? They’re going to go up. So most people have been trained to Understand that. In healthcare we haven’t gotten that point across. We need to.

The trend that I predict and we write about in the book, our last chapter is “Staying Healthy Can Make You Rich” is really all about the new trend of high- deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts. There may be some controversy about it. It’s not perfect for everyone in every circumstance but there is a large population of people that they’re great for that really could be putting pre-tax dollars into their own health savings accounts that would allow them to do one of two things. I think this is the opportunity and I think this is really where it gets, not everybody but most people most of the time are going to benefit and be able to use dollars to be able to invest in their health by using what I think of as inexpensive healthcare modalities. One of two things will happen. Either you’ll be able to use your health savings account money when recommended by a doctor for qualified medical expenses... A chiropractor is the perfect type of doctor because they tend to be holistic by nature and this ties back into creating a wellness network. So under the laws, and if those people who are using health savings accounts, when a service is recommended by a doctor, by a chiropractor perhaps, it could be a naturopath or others, that service then can be qualified, may be qualified, obviously check your laws and all of those things to not misinterpret what I’m saying, but those are qualified expenses to be paid for with pre-tax dollars. Now that gives you an instant 30 to 40 percent, depending on your tax bracket, savings on these types of services, which is tremendous.

The best opportunity really is for people to understand that when they are investing in their health and these types of services that they are in fact able to also save and kind of create an additional retirement fund. So if you’re not able to use your health savings account money, let that accumulate, you can in fact accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime, if you start early enough, for your retirement. You’ll probably use this money sooner or later at some point in time, but to be able to accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars of pre-tax dollars as an additional retirement account, gives you a very good incentive to want to do what you can to get well and stay well. I believe, as I said, for most people, most of the time, getting and staying well is a majority of the things you can do for yourself. Then you have additional support and help from those providers who can help you with the things that you can’t necessarily do for yourself.

Kevin: Right. Some people may not know exactly what a health savings account is. Can you just briefly explain that? I didn’t realize that they can accrue interest. Is that correct?

Dr. Tikoes: Yes, they do accrue interest. It’s very much like an IRA or an additional retirement account of sorts. You accumulate your money. You get to keep it. It’s yours. That’s the incentive. That’s the point. And that is really the essence of how staying healthy can make you financially rich. We mean rich in all sense of the word. We know that richness in life is your ability to have freedom and freedom comes from your ability to be healthy and well and make the choices you want to make because you’re not hindered by some sort of health condition that prevents you from doing that. But financially, yes, you can retire with hundreds of thousands of dollars if you follow this program that we talk about in the book, by following these recommendations.

A health savings account is something that has recently become popular, because of new laws passed only two years ago, that is a bank account that you have to have a high-deductible health plan, a qualifying high-deductible insurance program plan that would allow you to then get a health savings account and put, every year it changes, it’s approximately 2,900 dollars per year or approximately over 5,000 dollars for a family, to put that money, pre-tax like you would a retirement account, pre-tax, into your own account that is your money. If you don’t spend it you keep it. I think that is a tremendous incentive for people to invest in their well being so they don’t have to spend it. It’s there if you need it and many of us are going to require a greater and greater security blanket. After several years you can have tens of thousands of dollars in your own account, which again is pre-tax dollars to spend on any type of healthcare or medical care that may be necessary to supplement these high deductibles 2, 3, 4, 5 thousand dollars at a time. If you’re doing this properly you’ll have that money in an account so you in fact don’t really have the risk that you may have even if you go through a traditional insurance program.

People think that if you have a low deductible, maybe 500 or 1,000 dollars, which used to be traditional, that you were in a much safer position. What people need to learn more about are these new types of plans. If you do find yourself having high expenses in many cases the low-deductible plans also may have what they call an 80/20 policy where you’re still responsible for 20 percent of your co-payments. Your out of pocket expense can add up very quickly if you were to need and use your insurance. The high-deductible plans, although you’re responsible for your first deductible, maybe 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 dollars, many of these plans cover you 100 percent once you’ve covered your deductible. So depending on your perspective and your attitude as to how you choose to use your insurance will depend on really how you use it. I think that there is a tremendous education for most people to realize that it’s far better to put that money into your own pocket, far better for you to become more responsible for your own health, accumulate those dollars, have access to any type of provider you would like to see and pay them directly for it. Because the reverse psychology is that many people, and I know people and I’m sure you do too Kevin, that go, “I pay a fortune for my health insurance. I’ve got a sniffle, I’ve got a sneeze, I’ve got an ache and a pain, I’m going to the doctor because I’m paying for it. I’m going to get my money’s worth.” There’s a lot of critics that may argue that people don’t get the care that they need. I will argue that there are too many people that are almost hypochondriacs about it because they think that they’ve got to go get care because they’re paying for it.

I just don’t think consumers are yet educated enough consumers. And that’s our job, that’s our role. I think that’s the potential that’s going to really help a new paradigm come into place. Doctor means teacher and as healthcare providers I don’t think our job is to do things to people, it’s really to teach them a better way. We will see how things evolve with our new president but there must be a better way. I promise you one thing, we can’t afford the existing system much longer.