Medical and Dental Expenses – A Commonly Overlooked Deduction

Doctor’s bill weighing you down? Don’t sweat it! They might be deductible. In fact, there are a lot of clients that we work with who are not aware of the fact that those costly doctor’s visits can benefit you come tax time. Here is a list provided by the IRS to see if your medical and dental expenses are deductible. This version is simplified so that you do not have to be a tax professional like me to understand terms like “AGI threshold” and “qualified expenses”:

1. All “qualified” medical and dental bills paid out of pocket that are above 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income(calculated on Line 37 of Form 1040). Qualified bills will be explained below.

2. The first qualification test is that YOU must pay the expenses. They cannot be paid by your employer or insurance company. Such examples would be deductibles, co-pays or health insurance premiums that are not withheld from your paycheck.

3. The second qualification test is that your expenses MUST be paid for you, your spouse or anyone you claim on your tax return such as: children, friends/relatives that you support financially and live with you or elderly/disabled relatives that you support, but live outside of your household. In addition, if you are divorced or separated and the other parent claims your child, you can still deduct any qualified expenses you pay out of pocket for the child.

4. The third qualification test is that the expenses need to be “paid for the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness.” This can include a variety of expenses, ranging from doctor prescribed weight-loss or smoking cessation programs to any prescription medication you are taking. This does NOT include any voluntary weight-loss programs or over the counter medications(except for insulin).

5. In addition to the expenses above, mileage and/or transportation costs for medical care are also deductible. For example if you have to use public transportation to get to the doctor, save those receipts. Likewise, if you drive your own car, keep track of the mileage, especially if you have to drive out of state to receive medical care. In addition, tolls and parking fees are deductible. What is not covered is any international medical travel, so if you live near the Canadian or Mexican border and get your medications or treatment there, you cannot deduct these expenses.

6. If you have a Health Savings Account or Flex Spending Arrangement at work and have to withdraw any money for medical purposes you can do so without having to pay any tax on this distribution.

So to summarize – the health expenses must be above 7.5% of your AGI, they must be out-of-pocket expenses that are not reimbursed, they must be for yourself or anyone else listed or claimed on your tax return(or your child if you are divorced and still pay for their medical care), they must be to prevent or alleviate a physical or mental defect or illness, you can deduct mileage and/or transportation costs and finally, any distributions from Health Savings plans used for the qualified expenses explained above will not be taxable.

Please note that this list is only a recommendation and is not a substitute for a one on one consultation with your tax professional. If you would like to consult with myself or one of my fellow Tax Patriots, please contact us and we will assist you in any of your tax issues.

Medical Tourism and Dental Tourism – Can You Benefit From It?

You may be hearing lot about medical and Dental Tourism in the news and may be wondering if this can benefit you at all and what are the risks associated with it.

Let us discuss who can be a good candidate for dental or Medical Tourism and what are some of the procedures which can save you money on your next vacation.

If you visit your friends or family regularly in countries like Mexico, Singapore, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, China or South Korea you should consider health care options available there and how you can take advantage of these either for you or for a family member.

Are you going on vacation to Costa Rica, Caribbean islands or any other medical tourism hot spots? You may want to research dental or medical facilities there and take advantage of world-class hospitals and could save some money. You could as well enjoy an affordable health Spa in these vacation destinations.

Do you have high deductible health insurance plan and need a dental or medical procedure done, you may be a good candidate!

Are you a resident of a country where health care costs are high or there is a long waiting time for your turn to get the medical attention you need, research the global options available to you to see if you can be a good candidate. There are abundant resources online.

Are you one of those millions of diaspora living away from the home country visiting family when ever you get chance, you may want to utilize the relatively less expensive radiology services like MRI, full body scans etc.

If you are one of those people traveling on business to countries where medical and dental costs are low, you could get that extra dental visit at a fraction of cost.

This is not an easy choice to make when it comes to complicated surgeries or when one is not in a condition to travel. Please read the AMA guide lines for patients traveling for treatment.

Medical Tourism need not mean going to foreign countries, many companies in U.S.A like Lowes, a home improvement store has an agreement with Cleveland clinic in Ohio. There could be a hospital within the country which may be affordable.

Before making a decision, research enough! After your experience, please be sure to share with others. You sure will be helping lot of others in making an informed decision by sharing your experience.

Tips for Choosing a Group Medical and Dental Insurance Broker in Oklahoma

You may have worked with an employee benefits broker when setting up and reviewing your company’s employee benefits program. This is the person that markets plans, usually from a number of different insurance companies, and assists the employer in selecting an insurer and plan design that best suits the company’s needs.

But what if you’re not happy with your broker or your plan? How do you go about finding a new one, or making sure your company’s group insurance is in the best hands? Here are a few things to consider when you’re choosing a group health and dental insurance broker.

Is the broker focused on the employee benefits marketplace?

If the broker is an insurance agent that discusses your benefits plan, and then wants to talk about your personal life insurance or property and casualty insurance, this might be a bad sign. There are thousands of different kinds of insurance out there, each with its own set of laws and policies. You don’t want a jack-of-all-trades here. You want a specialist.

A broker that focuses on employee benefits will be more likely to be familiar with the increasingly complex benefits market. He should also be able to not only help you put a new plan in place, but be there after the initial sale is made to assist in the everyday servicing of the benefits plan.

Can you get referrals?

Don’t be shy about asking the broker for names and phone numbers for at least 15 of his current, local business clients that his firm has served for at least five years. Referrals are absolutely your best way to distinguish between a slick talker and the broker that offers good, long-term value to his clients.

When you call these referrals, ask them questions such as “What happens when you have a claims or billing problem? Does your broker’s office work with your employees on these issues, or do they have to call the insurance company? How satisfied have you been with the long-term service that your broker’s office gives you?”

What kind of customer service does the broker offer?

Customer service really is the most vital factor. As the client, you do not pay directly for the broker’s services. All brokers are paid an ongoing commission by the insurance company. So, it really costs you no more to work with a good, service-oriented broker than one that sells you a plan and disappears.

Are you familiar with the insurance companies being marketed?

The group medical insurance industry has greatly consolidated over the last decade or so. A market that once offered endless choices for health insurance has been reduced to less than 10 credible choices in most parts of the country. Most good brokers will show you the same array of leading insurance plans, simply because the choice is limited.

Beware of a broker that tries to market an off-brand plan, one that you are not familiar with, or that has low financial ratings. Often these kinds of programs offer low initial premiums to the buyer and high commissions to the broker, but do not perform well over time.

Because most good brokers will offer the same plan choices, the buying decision comes down to this: Which broker demonstrates the best service capability to your company? Which broker offers a long list of referrals of current, long-term clients without being asked for it?

Most employees and job seekers consider a company’s benefit package nearly as important as salary when deciding whether to stay at a job or which job offer to accept. A good benefits broker should be like a human resources director for your company: helping you hire and retain the caliber of employees that makes your business successful.

A Huge Mistake Made by Most Medical and Dental Websites

Multiple marketing studies have found that 87% of people never read an entire web page. They skim and scan and generally only read the bullet points. For this reason, the initial pages that a visitor sees on a website should consist only of bullet points and easy to identify navigation links.

People don’t want to read a lot of information while hunting. They switch from hunting to gathering and are ready to read only when they feel they are at the right place on your website. If they are interested in what you have to say, they are willing to navigate 3-4 pages deep to get the information.

Let’s put these statistics into perspective with a medical or dental website. In a recent study by Google, they found that when a patient conducts a search for a medical practice or dental practice, 84% of the time they only want one of two things:

1. They want the practices phone number and/or
2. They want directions to the practice.

If 87% of the general population only skims the page and reads the bullet points, and 84% of your visitors only want your phone number or directions to your office; why is it that medical and dental websites make it difficult for the visitor to find the information they are seeking? They make a visitor muddle through large blocks of text to uncover the information that they seek. This is a huge mistake that is made by most medical and dental websites.

Costa Rica Medical and Dental Tourism Overview

Costa Rica is home to highly trained doctors and surgeons that provide superior quality health care at a fraction of the cost compared to the United States. Every year loads of patients visit the country to receive medical, surgical, dental and cosmetic surgeries. With growing health care costs and reduced medical / insurance coverage, going to Costa Rica to have optimum medical care is a viable and an alluring option.

Costa Rica is one of the most amazingly diverse and beautiful countries. It boasts of mountains, forests, tropical beaches, and dormant volcanoes. Thus, combining, a vacation with a medical value trip is idyllic, and this has been one significant reason, that has made Medical Tourism flourish here.

Costa Rica’s brilliant reputation is attributed to its internationally trained surgeons and cost effective, inexpensive medical and surgical procedures.

The Hospital, Clinica Biblica, has been providing high quality health care services. State of the art facilities, modern and advanced equipments, and a variety of medical procedures and techniques, make the Hospital Clinica Biblica an ideal choice for health care needs for the overseas patients.

Costa Rica focuses on a host of wide-ranging medical and surgical treatments: cardio – vascular surgery, dental care, gynecology and obstetrics, cancer management, organ transplant surgery, to cosmetic and plastic surgery.

Some of the best dentists, dental surgeons, and oral surgeons in the world are placed in Costa Rica. Patients from all over the world, come to Costa Rica for its astonishingly low prices, vastly skilled dentists, and high-tech facilities. Dental work specializes in tooth extractions, implants, teeth whitening, smile designing, realignment of the facial bones, etc.

It is also noteworthy to mention that the Costa Rica Cosmetic Surgery is world renowned. In fact, cosmetic / plastic surgery is so reasonably priced, that the total cost of the medical trip to Costa Rica, inclusive of air fare, stay, and a few days of sight seeing, is far less than what the procedure would cost in the U.S. Plastic surgeries here cost a third of what they do in the U.S., without affecting the quality of health care.

How will you benefit by going to Costa Rica for a Medical Vacation?

• Hospitals (facilitated by the Medical Tourism Corporation medical packages) are world class, JCI accredited.

• Quality health care at affordable and inexpensive rates.

• Surgeons, physicians, and dentists are highly proficient in their fields of expertise.

• The equipments, apparatus, and surgical techniques used are contemporary and highly advanced.

• Medical Tourism guarantees up to 75 % off U.S. rates for dental care, and general surgery.

• Located at a convenient and short distance from the United States.

Modern hospitals (most of them JCI accredited) and health care centers have Board Certified surgeons, many of whom are professionally trained in North America or Europe. They present a variety of dental, cosmetic and general surgery procedures, using the newest technology, at reasonable rates. These characteristics have been greatly responsible for making this country, a much sought after country for medical vacations.