Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cost-Cutting Tricks for Everyday Items

Consumers everywhere are on the look-out for cost-cutting tricks to use for everyday items, from groceries and clothing to prescription medications and entertainment. For these everyday purchases, there are plenty of ways for savvy shoppers to apply numerous cost-cutting tricks. Here are a few ways:

Groceries: Whether you clip coupons or rely on smartphone applications, there are plenty of opportunities to apply cost-cutting tricks to your purchases at the grocery store. Check out sites such as coupons.com or smartsource.com for great savings on grocery items. Also, consider sharing a warehouse membership with another family, and enjoy additional savings on everyday items.

Prescription Drugs: A simple way to apply savings to prescription drugs is by using the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card at your pharmacy. The card is free to for all consumers - both insured and uninsured - with no registration or membership fee, and it can garner significant savings on your prescription medications. Additional cost-cutting tips for prescriptions include:

  • Asking about generic prescription drugs, which are often less expensive than name brands, but just as effective.
  • Checking out your insurance provider’s preferred pharmacy and mail-order options for your prescription drug needs.
  • Speaking with the pharmacist regarding cash pricing on prescription drugs.

Clothing: There are many ways to save on everyday items such as clothing. Here are a few cost-cutting tips:

  • Before shopping, check out sites such as Saving Star and Retail Me Not for deals and coupons.
  • Shop sale and clearance merchandise first for savings on clothing.
  • Consider second-hand, especially for designer goods and larger ticket items such as winter coats and boots.
  • Ditch dry-clean only merchandise. Over time this cost-cutting trick alone will result in savings in the clothing department.

Entertainment: Readers can try free electronic downloads from Project Gutenberg, or borrow books from the public library. While foodies can look for deals through sites such as Eatdrinkdeals.com to enjoy savings and deals at a variety of restaurants. In addition, for a less costly way to enjoy on-screen entertainment, movie fanatics can replace going to the movies with a movie night at home.

Other:  Cost-cutting tricks can apply to items such as energy costs, too.  Programs such as the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) help provide financial assistance and services to cut heating and cooling costs. In addition, apps such as Gas Buddy allow users to check out the cheapest gasoline prices in the area. Compare cell phone, cable television, and Internet plans by using My Rate Plan and check out a variety of plans and determine the most appropriate one for your specific needs.

With all the cost-cutting tricks available for everyday items, it’s easier than ever for consumers to save money. By incorporating cost-cutting tricks, you can enjoy the same lifestyle without breaking the bank.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why Even The Insured Are Paying Too Much For Prescriptions

You probably think that if you have health insurance, you’re covered when it comes to medications. However, even with insurance, you could still be spending too much - it many cases, it's not the cheapest option. There are many ways to save on prescriptions, and insurance isn't always going to lead you to the best savings. Insured or uninsured, here’s what you can do to make sure you're saving effectively, every time.

Using your insurance may not be your most cost-effective option

Using your insurance coverage may actually cost you more, in some cases. Here are some tips for finding the best price:

  • Use a discount card, such as the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card, and you may see savings of up to 75% off the retail price. Unlike some discount cards, the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card does not charge a registration or membership fee, and it's free and easy to use.
  • Consider paying cash for medications. In a few cases, this might equate to savings greater than using insurance. Always ask your pharmacist for the retail price of a medication so that you can compare.

Don’t forget generic brands

The generic version of a medication is often less expensive than one with a brand name. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure a generic is right for you and your particular medical condition.

Find out your insurance’s “preferred” pharmacy

Some commercial insurance and Medicare plans offer savings on prescription drugs if you use a specific pharmacy. For drugs that you use long-term (typically 3 months or more), you can often see savings by buying a supply that will last longer.

Try therapy in steps

This practice, known as “step therapy,” involves trying less expensive medication options first. If these options are ineffective, try more expensive options. You may experience savings if you never need to take the most expensive medication for your condition.

Do an annual review

Experts recommend an annual review with your healthcare provider of any medications, supplements or vitamins you take. You may often be able to eliminate something from your current regimen, which results in a lower medication expenses for you.

Just like when it comes to shopping for clothes or groceries, being a savvy shopper when it comes to medications can result in cost savings everyone can enjoy.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Donut Hole is Real

If you're covered under Medicare Part D, the “donut hole” is real, and can dramatically affect the cost of your prescriptions. Here’s how and why.

What is the Medicare donut hole?

The "donut hole" is a coverage gap in certain Medicare prescription drug plans. This gap is a temporary limit on what the plan will cover.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance program Medicare gives qualified recipients (people 65 or older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and a few others) the option of paying a monthly premium for outpatient prescription drug coverage. This section is called Medicare Part D.

With Medicare Part D, you pay a monthly premium, plus the full price of your medication until you reach the $310 deductible amount. After meeting this deductible, you pay 25 percent of your prescription drug costs, until the total spending between you and your plan reaches a certain limit ($2,960 in 2015, or $3,310 in 2016).

After you hit this limit, the coverage gap, or “donut hole,” begins. You are now responsible for 45 percent of the cost of covered brand-name prescription drugs until you reach the yearly out-of-pocket spending limit (which differs from year to year), after which coverage kicks back in.

Reducing the wallet impact of the donut hole

If you're looking to save during the coverage gap, switching over to generics could be a good option. Medicare pays 35 percent of the price for generic drugs during the coverage gap, as opposed to 45 percent for brand-name. More good news: the percentage you pay for generics during the coverage gap will decrease each year until it reaches 25 percent in 2020.

However, even with these discounts on generics, the Medicare “donut hole” can make it hard for senior citizens without any supplemental plan to pay for their prescriptions. This is a good reason to look into the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card. It’s free to obtain and use, and gives you discounts on prescriptions, whether you're insured or uninsured. There’s no registration required, and using the card when buying prescription drugs can save you up to 75 percent.

Just show the FamilyWize card to your pharmacist the next time you pick up a prescription, and ask them to compare the discount offered by the card to the discount offered by your insurance. In many cases, the FamilyWize price is often the better deal. You can also check the price and compare before picking up by using our Drug Price Lookup tool, available on our website or through the smartphone app (just search "FamilyWize" on your smartphone's app store).

You can also check to see if you qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help options for paying Part D, which prevents you from entering the coverage gap. Also, check out the Medicare website’s Part D section for further information on the donut hole gap, with scenarios to help explain it.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back to School Savings Strategies

According to the National Retail Federation, average back-to-school spending has grown 42 percent over the past 10 years. To help you combat the budget-busting burden of school-related expenses, we offer the following savings strategies:

1.  Save on clothing for school
Clothing can be a big expense when your kids are going back to school. These tips will help you keep costs manageable:
  • Take stock: Before you purchase any new clothing, take an inventory of your child’s current clothes for the school year. Figure out what still fits, what is still in good shape, and what should be donated or thrown away. This may mean pulling out the boxes of winter clothes before the weather turns cold, but that extra effort could save you hundreds of dollars down the line.
  • Save with hand-me-downs: While new clothes are fun for the kids, you can save a ton by tapping into your inventory. Any clothes that are too small but still in good condition can be handed down to one of your younger children.
  • Host a clothes-swap party: You can expand your clothing options and get rid of unwanted items by hosting a party to exchange your inventory with parents in your neighborhood, church, or other social group.
  • Consider secondhand shops: New clothes at a retail store can cost ten times more than those purchased from a secondhand store or consignment shop.
2.  Save on school supplies
The inevitable school supplies can be cheaper with these smart tips:
  • Ask for discounts: Many brands or stores give big discounts to students, particularly those in college. This article from Business Insider lists students discounts for retailers ranging from Amazon to the Apple Store.
  • Bulk buy: If you can swing it financially, buying school supplies in bulk at your local warehouse store can lead to big savings in the long run. If you don’t need a whole ream of printer paper or a 12-pack of notebooks, split the supplies - and the cost - with fellow parents.
3.  Save on school lunches
Food costs can add up if you aren't careful, but there are steps you can take to reduce the daily price of school lunch:
  • Ask about free lunch: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) gives out 19.2 million free lunches each day, so check to see if your family qualifies for free lunches. 
  • Consider buying: Don’t assume that it’s cheaper to make a lunch than to buy one. According to statistics for one school system, you can save about $1.83 per day, or $329/year, if your child buys a school lunch instead of bringing one from home. However, that changes when you buy in bulk, by purchasing and preparing homemade lunches for four kids instead of one.
  • Research the best options: Check out the ChooseMyPlate.gov website, featuring food purchasing and meal preparation tips to help you serve nutritional and affordable meals for your family. The Healthy Eating on a Budget section is especially helpful.
4.  Save on prescriptions
Kids going back to school often get sick. If this happens and your doctor prescribes medication for your child, you can save an average of 42 percent by using the free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card:

  • Get the card: Just print out a FamilyWize card (or use the online form to request one be mailed to you) on our site, show it to your pharmacist when picking up your prescription, and ask for the lowest price.
  • Use the app: The FamilyWize smartphone app works the same as the card, and allows you to instantly start saving up to 75 percent on your prescriptions. It also lets you easily compare drug prices at virtually any pharmacy in your area by using the Drug Price Lookup.
To download the FamilyWize app, search in your app store for “FamilyWize,” or follow these links to the Apple App Store,  Google Play, or the Windows Store.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Power Up Your Day With a Better Breakfast

September is Better Breakfast Month – the perfect time to beef up your knowledge on the importance of a strong dietary start for the day. As WebMD notes, eating a regular breakfast is important to your overall health and wellness; breakfast provides necessary nutrients, and may even lower your overall cholesterol.

Read on for information about the importance of breakfast, and recipes for a more productive and energy-filled day.

Is breakfast really that important?

Several studies show that you’re better off when you eat breakfast. For example:
  • Research by the No Kid Hungry Initiative reports that students who eat breakfast on a regular basis average 18% better on math scores, have better attendance records, and are 20% more likely to graduate high school.
  • Evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows that the cereals we often eat for breakfast provide us with more fiber, iron, folic acid, and zinc, and less fat, sodium, sugar, and cholesterol than the nutrients we get in other foods.
  • Research shows that when you eat breakfast, you are less likely to be overweight. Another study found that people who regularly skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight. Scientists believe that this is because breakfast helps regulate your appetite, and positively influences calorie burn rates.
  • The Journal of Adolescent Health reports that adolescents who eat breakfast are as much as five times more likely to get the right amount of nutrients than adolescents who skip breakfast.
What a better breakfast looks like

Make sure that your breakfast includes healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates to improve concentration and alertness throughout the day. Include foods with fiber, especially fresh fruit or vegetables (many of which also have phytonutrients and health-preserving antioxidants).

While some ideas for fast and easy breakfasts are included below, be aware that not all fast breakfasts are good for your family. The high sugar content of many sweet breakfasts, such as breakfast pastries, muffins, donuts, breakfast cereal bars, and many boxed cereals have enough sweeteners in them to interfere with your blood sugar levels. This can result in a short burst of energy followed by a blood sugar drop, leaving you lethargic, irritable and fuzzy-brained.

Recipes for a better breakfast

Some healthy breakfasts that take almost no prep time include:
  • A whole grain toaster waffle with peanut butter
  • Plain yogurt with fruit 
  • A fruit smoothie with yogurt, with a spoonful of flaxseed flour, wheat germ, or chia seeds for fiber
  • A meat and cheese sandwich with lettuce or sliced cucumber
  • A bowl of cereal that has less than five grams of sugar and three or more grams of fiber per serving (check the label on the cereal box, or use this list of healthier boxed cereals)
Any of these can be prepared in less than five minutes. If you have more time to cook up a healthy breakfast, you’ll find several other healthier breakfast options here.

If you have an easy-to-prepare healthy breakfast recipe, use the comments field below to share. And don't forget that when you save money on prescriptions by using your free FamilyWize card at the pharmacy, you'll have more to spend at the grocery store!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Can You Do to Reduce the Risk of Ovarian Cancer?

There are more than thirty different types of ovarian cancer, the fifth highest cause of cancer-related deaths among women. While research is still being done, several risk factors for ovarian cancer have been identified - these are things that can affect your chances of developing it.

Some risk factors are controllable, such as your diet and overall health; other risk factors, such as age and gender, cannot be changed. What are these different factors, and what can you do to lower your risk?

According to the American Cancer Society, the risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
  1. Age: Ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40, but the risk increases with age. 50% of those who suffer from ovarian cancer develop it after age 63.
  2. Obesity: Women considered obese (body mass index of 30+) are at higher risk. You can check your BMI here.
  3. Reproductive history: If you’ve never had a full-term pregnancy, or became pregnant after the age of 35, you’re at higher risk. On the other hand, if you have had a term pregnancy before the age of 26, you are at lower risk. Each full-term pregnancy further reduces your risk. Breastfeeding may lower your risk, as well.
  4. Birth control: The use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills) for just a few months lowers your risk. Your risk lessens the longer you take birth control pills, even after you stop taking them. Injectable hormonal contraceptive, DMPA or Depo-Provera CI, also lowers your risk.
  5. Gynecological surgery: Having a tubal ligation (“tubes tied”) or a hysterectomy (removing the uterus, but not the ovaries) may significantly reduce your risk.
  6. Fertility drugs: Use of the fertility drug Clomid, or clomiphene citrate, for longer than one year may increase your risk, especially if no pregnancy resulted. Fertility drugs seem to increase your risk of developing low malignant potential tumors. Infertility may put women at higher risk even without the use of fertility drugs; this may be associated with no full-term pregnancy (see reproductive history above).
  7. Hormone therapy: Although more studies are needed, experts believe taking male hormones, known as androgens, may increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. The use of estrogen after menopause increases your risk. The risk appears higher for those taking only estrogen, not an estrogen/progesterone combination.
  8. Personal and family history: You have an increased risk if any relatives have had ovarian cancer. A personal or family history of breast or colorectal cancers, which may be caused by inherited mutations in certain genes, may also put you at greater risk.
  9. Diet: Following a low-fat diet may decrease your risk for ovarian cancer. In general, the American Cancer Society recommends following a diet filled with healthful whole foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limiting the amount of red meat and processed foods in your diet is recommended.
  10. Smoking and alcohol use: Although there isn’t research available to support a link between smoking or alcohol use and ovarian cancer, experts suggest that abstaining from these practices is beneficial to overall health.
How can you lower your risk? There are a few simple ways you can start.

First, try to control which factors you can. You might not be able to change your age, but you can manage your weight through changes to your diet and exercise. Make proactive choices regarding your health, such as eating a more well-balanced diet, exercising more, and quitting smoking. This will reduce your risk for several diseases, including ovarian cancer.

It also helps to know your family history, if you don't know it already. If a relative has had a form of cancer, that may mean you are more likely to get it. 

Finally, speak with your physician about possible options. If your history indicates you may be at risk for ovarian cancer, he may order tests.

Remember that the earlier cancer is detected, the easier treatment becomes. If you believe you may be at risk for ovarian cancer, make sure to get tested. For more information on ovarian cancer, including its signs and symptoms, please visit the CDC website.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.