Monday, August 29, 2016

Top Tips for Fall Savings During Back-to-School Season




If you have school-aged children, fall typically means back-to-school season, which means spending. From an updated wardrobe to accommodate your growing kids, to school supplies and technology, it’s understandable to seek out ways to save – and we can help. Check out these ideas and tips for preparing your student(s) for the school year without breaking the bank. Even if no one in your home is headed back to school, these tips can apply to any fall purchases, from clothing and boots to household items.

The first tip may not be the most fun you’ve ever had, but taking inventory can result in great savings. Here’s how to get started:
  • Clothing: Evaluate what still fits, what can be passed on to another child, and what won’t work for anyone. If still in good condition, items that no longer fit anyone in your household can be taken to your closest consignment shop, which may result in cash back if your items sell. Take stock of footwear and accessories in this manner, too. Utilize what you have available, and capitalize on what won’t work.
  • Gear/Supplies: Check backpacks, desks, and closets for any supplies, i.e. lunch bags, pens and pencils, and binders, leftover from last year that can still be used. Don’t overlook these “leftovers,” which can result in significant fall savings.
  • Technology: Evaluate your family’s needs with a critical eye. Do you need one computer or more? Do you have a student going off to college who requires a laptop? Only buy what is truly a priority.
Once you take inventory, make a detailed list of your family’s needs. Before you head to the store, reach out to family, friends, and neighbors who are also preparing to head back to school and host a swap – what is no longer useful for your family may be useful for another family – or vice versa. After the swap, revise your list to only those items that you still truly need. Stick to your list while you’re doing back-to-school shopping. While it’s easy to sway from your list for just one item, then another, this can quickly lead to overspending.

Your next step should be to determine a strategy. First, find coupons for items you need through sites such as coupons.com or retailmenot.com. Also, compare prices. It might be necessary to shop at more than one store to find the best prices on the items you need. Research sales online before you head to the store to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Additional tips:
  • Remember: Unless a school uniform is required, kids can usually wear many summer items for the first few weeks of school before transitioning into the fall season. Then, they can add layers of additional clothing as needed. Take advantage of this extra time and put off additional spending for a few weeks, which can help your household’s cash flow.
  • Don’t forget to check out consignment and second-hand shops, especially for trendy pieces, which are usually more expensive but don’t stay in style for very long. 
  • When purchasing notebooks, binders, and other school supplies, stick with the plain and simple version. Those with specialty characters and themes may cost 20-30% more. Your kids can have fun customizing their own supplies with stickers and other add-ons. Have a back-to-school afternoon, creating unique looks for school supplies and excitement for the new school year. 
  • Some municipalities/cities offer back-to-school supplies free of charge at local events. Check your local listings for programs near you, which can offer significant fall savings for your family.
Back-to-school time doesn’t mean you need to fall into a spending trap. There are a lot of ways to find the best for less this fall.

And, of course, going back to school can also mean the return of illnesses for your family, as flu season hits and your kids are back in an environment more likely to spread germs. Stay ahead of the game and get your free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card to ensure that you’re paying the lowest price on all the prescription medications your family may need.

Download a free card online today or request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. You can also get the free FamilyWize app, available for both Android at the Google Play Store and Apple Devices (iPhone and iPad) at the App Store.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Healthy Aging Month - Caring for the Elderly



 As the chorus of the 1970s Bill Withers song goes, “Lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll help you carry on.” But those words can take on a new meaning as your loved ones age. Sometimes, in spite best efforts, the effects of aging, such as reduced mental and physical function, strip away independence and require help from a family member or caregiver.

With the approach of September’s Healthy Aging Month, this is an ideal time to evaluate the health status of your loved ones and potentially prepare for a future role as a caregiver. This can be overwhelming, but the following tips will make the transition easier, whether you or someone else will be looking after the person.

Tip #1 – View institutionalization as a last resort


Nursing home placement is rarely the first choice of the elderly, or their relatives, and for good reason. No matter how good the institution is, being placed in a nursing home can be traumatic, not to mention costly.

Finding workable alternative solutions that allow the aging person to stay in their home, or at least with those they know and love, is preferable. Keeping familiar surroundings and faces in the person’s daily life eliminates the stress that can occur when being moved to a nursing home.

Tip #2 – Find intermediate solutions involving close friends or family


Though this may be hard to find, a loved one living nearby may be able to extend the aging person’s independence by dropping in regularly to assist where it’s needed, whether that’s in the form of housekeeping, cooking, or personal care.

If you’re too busy to take on the extra work, consider hiring a younger relative, such as teenager or responsible adolescent in the family who could use a little extra spending money. It creates welcome social interaction and can be valuable job training for the person helping out.

Tip #3 – Seek professional intermediate solutions


If there is no one available among family and friends, there are many resources to assist professionally at home. For example:
  • If the aging person is already in a retirement community, research the transitional services available on-site – staff resources who can check in on your relative and assist with certain tasks that have become too difficult for them.
  • If living in their home, there are many in-home care provider services available, some of which are government subsidized. These services provide regular in-home visits to handle personal or household tasks.

Tip #4 – Look for electronic support


To help an aging elder to stay safe while maintaining a degree of independence, consider gadgets that can help. For example:
  • A wearable alarm button, often referred to as a Senior Alert Device or a Medical Alert for Seniors, that is manually activated by the person by clicking a button on the device – often a bracelet or necklace. Most operate like cellular mobile devices, connecting the wearer to selected loved ones or to a company operator, who can determine if emergency personnel should be called.
  • Wearables that monitor vital signs are part of a growing medical devices trend, including ECG monitors, glucose monitors, blood pressure, and pulse monitors. The wearable device tracks patients' movements and vitals, and then sends health measurements to caregivers or to their doctor. 
  • For a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you can get assistance devices that are worn around the neck and that boldly state on them that the wearer has mental impairment. When activated, it connects to selected friends or relatives. These are valuable if the person has wandered away from home and is lost or confused.

Tip #5 – Save them money on their prescription medicines


Many of the elderly are on numerous medications, the cost of which can really add up! Help your elderly friend or relative sign up for a free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card. Now more than ever, they can benefit from discounts of 43%, on average. If you are responsible for picking up prescriptions for that person, you can use your own FamilyWize card to save on their behalf.

Download a free card online today or request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. You can also get the free FamilyWize app, available for both Android at the Google Play Store and Apple Devices (iPhone and iPad) at the App Store.

It can be difficult to watch a loved one age, but it’s possible to help them do so with grace and dignity.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why Has My Medication Gotten So Expensive?

Specialty medications aren’t the only ones that you can expect to pay high prices for anymore. Even commonly prescribed drugs, like infection-fighting antibiotics, are seeing hefty price increases. Here’s what’s behind the price hikes, and what you can do about them.

Reasons for the increases

According to Harvard Health Publications, from Harvard Medical School, there are many contributing factors as to why we’re seeing a rise in the price of medications.

Corporate approach

Take the case of a drug called Daraprim, used to treat parasitic infections caused by toxoplasmosis. There’s a small market for the drug, without much competition. The price was stable for years. But when a new drug company acquired the drug, it raised the price 5,000%, from $13.50 to $750/pill. Why? Because it lacks the competition needed to drive the price down.

Supply/demand

A shortage of Doxycycline (an antibiotic) in 2011, due to quality concerns in a plant used in the composition of the drug, resulted in a 6,000% increase in the cost. The price for this somewhat common medication went from six cents to $3.36/pill. As with any consumer item, when there is a shortage in the product, the price increases.

Price spiking

Defined as a sudden increase in a drug’s price for a specific period of time, price spikes are not an uncommon practice. As long as drug companies are not collectively conspiring to raise prices, there is nothing illegal about this.

Unfortunately, generic medications used to be the lower-cost alternative to prescription drugs, but that isn’t always the case any longer. In fact, generic prices have actually increased, too. Recently, almost 400 generic medications have seen price increases of more than 1,000%, according to an AARP report.  

Some experts blame regulatory changes associated with the Affordable Care Act, since drug companies drive up prices when they’re concerned about the effect of regulations.

Even pharmacists are often surprised and taken off-guard by the sudden spikes. In many cases, the cost of prescription drugs has outstripped inflation.

All of these causes together are responsible for the price increases that have a major effect on consumers. Consumers pay for about 18% of prescription drugs out-of-pocket, and when the costs rise, that’s a financial burden and an overall health concern on a national level. In fact, approximately 25% of prescriptions are not even filled due to cost.

Ways to save

So, how can you, the consumer, save money on your prescription drugs? Don’t worry, there are ways!

  • Always ask your physician about the lowest-cost alternative for treatment. Sometimes that’s all it takes!
  • Many people don’t realize that you can (and should) comparison shop for prescriptions based on price. Use the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool to find the lowest cost drug at a pharmacy near you.
  • Utilize the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card to make sure that you’re getting the lowest price on your prescriptions. It’s free and available to everyone, and you can use it on every medication, every time you visit the pharmacy!
  • Contact your local representative to discuss these issues and let your voice be heard on this matter.

While drug prices might be on the increase, there are steps you can take to manage the costs – stay informed, compare prices, and don’t forget to use your FamilyWize card (or app) to help save on a regular basis.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Know Your Price: The FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool



 Are you overpaying for your prescription medications? Many of us are simply because we aren’t sure how or where to find the most affordable price for a particular medication. While the cost for the same drug may differ significantly from one pharmacy to the next, even in your own neighborhood, it can take a significant amount of time and research to determine which pharmacy you should go to. We’ve got good news: finding the best price is easy, thanks to the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool.

The FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool is free and easily accessible on the FamilyWize website. All you need to know is the name of your medication, the dosage, and the zip code for the area where you’d like to visit the pharmacy.

FamilyWize takes that information and displays the price you’ll pay for your prescription at a variety of pharmacies (if you use the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card). Armed with this information, you can make the best choice about which pharmacy to visit, knowing that you’ll be paying the lowest price available.

The FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool


Using the Drug Price Lookup Tool couldn’t be easier; in fact, it’s right on the homepage of the website! It looks like this:


Simply type in the name of your medication and then enter your zip code, or the zip code where you plan to visit a pharmacy. Click the “See your savings” button, and voil√†!

In this example, we entered Zoloft as the drug and 37401 (Chattanooga, TN) as the zip code. The results provide key comparison facts, such as the dose form, the strength, and the quantity, so you know that you’re comparing apples to apples – or, in this case, 30 Zoloft 100 MG tablets to 30 Zoloft 100 MG tablets.

You can also sort the price range from low to high, filter by generic or brand name medication, select major pharmacies only versus all pharmacies available, and choose the maximum distance for the location of the pharmacies.


The results then list the area pharmacies that carry your medication (in this example, it’s Zoloft) and the exact price you’ll pay at each if you use the free FamilyWize card or app. For Zoloft, the prices varied from as little as $10.99 to as much as $27.48 – nearly double the price! If this were a monthly prescription for you, the difference over the course of a full year would be significant.
Start saving with FamilyWize

FamilyWize makes it easy for you to save. The FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool is a free and easy way to comparison shop for your prescriptions, but that’s only one step. Insurance or not, you can save significantly – an average of 43% – on your prescriptions with the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card.

The free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card ensures that you’re paying the lowest price, whether it’s the pharmacy’s, the insurance price, or the FamilyWize price.

Download a free card online today or request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. You can also get the free FamilyWize app, available for both Android at the Google Play Store and Apple Devices (iPhone and iPad) at the App Store.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Free Summer Activities to Do with Your Kids


 Everyone looks forward to the summer season – sunshine, warmer weather, and long, lazy days. But, keeping kids busy during the summer months can often be a challenge. Vacations and summer camps are expensive. Can you keep your family active and happy this summer without breaking the bank? You bet! Here’s how.

The first place to start is in your own backyard. There are plenty of free summer activities to do with your kids in your own backyard. For starters, set up the sprinkler for the kids to run through on hot summer days. Don’t forget backyard camping, scavenger hunts, or gardening, which are all great outdoor activities to do with kids. Simply utilize materials and supplies you already have and enjoy these activities at no cost.

Your kitchen is another great place to find free summer fun. Whether your family enjoys baking or cooking dinner together, the kitchen is a great place for summer activities and learning new skills, especially on rainy days. Other great activities for days you’re stuck indoors include: indoor camping; playing cards, board or online games; and watching classic summer movies.

Most local libraries offer a variety of free summer activities to do with kids, too. Take advantage of summer book clubs, family movie nights, crafts, and more, all in the comfort of your air-conditioned library. There are often also reading challenges that your kids can sign up for too!

Within your community, check out local parks for biking and hiking trails, free concerts, movies in the park, and firework displays. Some local parks even provide spray parks in the summer for some cool, free fun. In addition, many local museums offer free, kid-friendly art workshops during the summer months.

Don’t forget local retailers who offer free workshops for kids as well. Check out Home Depot and Lowe’s for a variety of hands-on workshops specifically for kids. Bookstores provide free reading times, author visits, book signings, and other activities to take advantage of during the summer months. Even grocery stores, such as Wegmans, now offer story and craft hour for kids.

Volunteer activities are often family-friendly and can serve as a valuable learning experience. Walk dogs currently staying at a local animal shelter or visit with the elderly in a nursing home, for instance.

It’s easy to keep your kids busy engaging in activities that are both fun-filled and free this summer. So, check out your local resources, enlist the input of your family, and recognize the endless possibilities.

Save more!


While you’re saving money on activities, make sure to save on any prescriptions you pick up this summer as well. With the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card, which is free to all consumers, you will save an average of 43% on your prescriptions. Request a card or download the free app at FamilyWize.org, or call 800-222-2818. FamilyWize also provides a free Drug Lookup Tool, so you’ll always know the price you’ll pay before getting to the pharmacy counter. Try it today and start saving!

Enjoy your summer!



Monday, July 18, 2016

Five Ways to Stay Safe in the Sun


The sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays are sneaky. They are invisible and can reach you by reflecting off another surface (like pool water!). In fact, they can even pass through glass, which is why most of us have more sun damage on the left side of our face from exposure while driving, according to skincancer.org. No surprise then that many of us wrongly assume we are protected from harmful rays when we’re often not. This is a dangerous assumption as UV exposure is the leading cause of melanoma.

Since it is UV Safety Month, we’re sharing the top five ways you can protect yourself (and others) from UV rays, so that you can relax when you’re having fun in the sun.

#1 – Use Common Sense as Your First Line of Defense


According to the FDA, over-reliance on sunscreen is a risk. Unfortunately, it is easy to miss small patches of skin when applying sunscreen – which is enough to leave you at risk for sunburn and its associated long-term risks. So, the best move is to begin with common sense:
  • Avoid midday exposure when the sun is highest in the sky. This is when sunrays are most dangerous.
  • Wear protective clothing over exposed skin, such as long-sleeved shirts/pants, and a hat with a broad brim. 
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses. 
  • Favor the shade.
Use your sunscreen as your second line of defense, not the first.

#2 – Watch Out for Uncovered Spots


When you’re slathering on that sunscreen and racing for the beach or the pool, it’s easy to assume that you are “mostly” protected. Make sure not to miss easily and commonly overlooked areas including:
  • Ear lobes
  • Eye lids 
  • Lips (use lip balm with SPF protection) 
  • Bald spots 
  • Neck 
  • Palms of your hands 
  • Soles of your feet 
  • Your back 
  • The edges of your swimsuit or top (as they shift, unprotected skin gets exposed to the sun)

#3 – Check Sun Lotion Expiration Dates


Yes, it actually does matter how old your sunscreen is. Most likely, it has a printed expiration date. Once it has expired, throw it away immediately. The product’s active ingredients become less effective over time. In fact, the safest thing to do is throw away all of your unused sunscreen on an annual basis and replenish your stock with brand new bottles.

#4 – For Reliable SPF, Use Chemical-Based Sunscreens


Recent research by Consumer Reports shows that a troubling 48% of all sunscreen products do not provide the SPF rating that they claim on their packaging. Many people choose mineral-based sunscreens over chemical-based sunscreens for health reasons, but the research showed that only 26% of mineral sunscreens met the SPF levels claimed on their packaging. To play it safe, consider using one of the chemical-based sunscreen lotions, which score the highest in terms of SPF reliability.

#5 – Avoid Potentially Harmful Sunscreen Ingredients


Ingredients found in some sunscreen formulas present risks that are best avoided. For example, though vitamin A is generally good for us, the form of vitamin A often used in lotions can actually accelerate the development of skin tumors if applied in sunlight. And some fragrances commonly used in sunscreen have been linked to skin tumors. When you’re applying sunscreen, the best bet is to do so when you are clean and free from other products.

More Resources


Avoiding sun-related health issues is a key concern during the summer; no one wants to spend a day of nice weather stuck inside of a doctor’s office or hospital dealing with sunburn, sun poisoning, dehydration, or related issues. Of course, if you find yourself in this position, we can help.

Use the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card to ensure that you save on any of your prescriptions. At least if you’re suffering from an illness, you won’t have to worry about the price of your medications.

If you don’t already have a card, you can easily download a free card online. You can also request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. Not interested in carrying the card with you? There’s an app (for Apple and Android) available here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Annual Healthcare Costs for Families Hit $25K



The data is in and it’s concerning: The annual healthcare costs for a family of four have hit $25K. According to the annual Milliman Medical Index analysis, this represents an increase of $1,155 over last year’s costs, and it is triple what healthcare costs were in 2001.

Even worse? It’s anticipated that family healthcare costs will rise another 4.7% this year alone. Although this is the lowest annual increase in 15 years, it is still taking a financial toll on today’s families. According to Chris Grod, co-author of the Milliman Medical Index, this is a “significant and somewhat unsettling milestone.”

Unsettling is right. What exactly does this data mean for you and your family? What can you do in light of these rising costs?

According to the report, the cause of increasing healthcare costs is due to two factors:
  1. A reduction in employer contributions
  2. A rise in prescription drug costs
Employers typically pay some portion of healthcare costs for full-time employees (usually it’s part of the annual healthcare premiums). As employers continue to find ways to shift increasing costs to employees, through higher deductibles, co-pays, and employee contributions, these healthcare costs escalate for employees and their families. Unfortunately, these costs aren’t rising in relation to salaries, leading to a larger population of underinsured people, those who have high deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses relative to their income. The uninsured are in a more challenging position, absorbing 100% of these costs and increases on their own.

And it’s not just the fees associated with insurance and doctor’s visits, it’s the actual prescriptions themselves that are rising in cost too. According to Milliman, prescription drug costs alone make up 17% of the average family’s healthcare costs, which equals an average of $4,270 annually.

These increases can be challenging to navigate. Here’s what you can do to help offset them:
  • Look for ways to lower your out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. For instance, by using the FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card on a consistent basis, you can start saving immediately on your prescription drug needs. If you don’t already have a card, you can easily download a free card by visiting https://familywize.org/prescription-savings-card/get-your-free-card/. You can also request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. Not interested in carrying the card with you? There’s an app (Apple and Android), available here.
  • Always ask your doctor for the lowest cost, most effective way to treat a health condition. In some cases, this may be ordering a generic form of medication, when available. Be your own advocate!
  • Use the FamilyWize Drug Price Lookup Tool to find the pharmacy in your area with the best price on your medication. 
  • Practice preventive medicine, which can help lower your family’s overall healthcare costs. Eat healthful meals, get adequate sleep, exercise, and alleviate stress to help keep your immune system strong. Managing chronic health conditions can help alleviate more complicated, and costly, health challenges.
  • Look to lower or alleviate costs in other areas to help offset your overall household increases. For instance, check out this post regarding the best couponing blogs for valuable information on saving on household expenses.
By understanding how these increases in healthcare costs affect you and your family and establishing ways to help defer these costs, you can still keep your family members healthy while enjoying the activities and lifestyle you desire.