Embarrassment of Riches
Ladies and gentlemen of the blogoshere, I present to youâ€¦. Da da da daaaaâ€¦.Flex-dollar Spending Woman.
Due to some severe miscalculations and unforeseen assignments, I was left with $852 in my flexible spending account as of December 18. For those of you unfamiliar with this program, basically the federal government lets you pick a number, any number and then allows you to spend that amount, tax free, for medical expenses— but any amount leftover at the end of the year goes to Uncle Sam. A Brewsterâ€™s millions scenario but over 365 days.
Now last year, I blew through my flex spending account by mid-April. I bid too low and ended up paying the price with after-tax bucks. No good. So last December, determined not to make the same mistake I bid twice as much!
That would have been fine, except I ended up assigned to two, nay, three hellish cases and was unable to schedule a planned surgery or visit the many exotic doctors that I circled in my Provider book ( seriously, what is the difference between an opthamologist and an optometrist?)
And so, on December 18, I faced the daunting task of spending more than 800 dollars on medical services without suffering through any painful procedures.
God bless my friends and their many suggestions:
â€œOoh, buy up contact lens solution and sell it half price on the streets.â€
Given the many holidays smack dab in the middle of my 13 day medical marathon, there were many who said it couldnâ€™t be done.
â€œIt canâ€™t be done,â€ theyâ€™d say.
And certainly this was no task for any mere mortalâ€¦. But for â€œFlex-dollar Spending Woman,â€ no problem.
Thatâ€™s right, mild-mannered Dawn Summers blogs by night, but by day — she gets expensive, relatively painfree medical services.
Day 1: I went to the dentist for x-rays, got a teeth cleaning with the oral hygenist, visited the optometrist and bought a pair of glasses: $10
Damn managed care.
Day 2: I went to the pulmonary specialist for refills on my asthma medicine. She said I was progressing wonderfully from my near-fatal relapse in 2002, and cut me back to one inhaler.
Good news, but I was banking on her for at least four prescriptionsâ€¦ however, she did recommend I follow-up with an allergist, hooray!
I called the allergist to set up an appointment for the next day, but they would not see new patients during the last two weeks of December. Not realizing she was dealing with a bona fide superhero, the secretary kept hawking some dates in January.
Finally, she relented and said if I could get to the office in the next hour, the doctor would see me.
Fifteen minutes later, I was in the waiting room filling out the new patient forms. He was good for the co-pay, but then decided to give me samples of the medicine instead of prescriptions to â€œsee how I reactedâ€ blah blah blahâ€¦
All in all I spent $65, but I managed to score a return appointment with the allergist for the following week, being a brand-spanking, shiny return patient and all.
Day 3: I had a session for deep-tissue muscle, back, neck and thigh therapy.
Gotta love the Swedes: $75
Days 4 and 5 were unproductive weekends, lousy no-goodnik doctors. Why donâ€™t they work on weekends??? People get sick on weekends. People die on weekends. People need to spend flex dollars on weekends.
I was feeling pretty discouraged now. Suddenly that whole â€œbuy lots of contact lens fluid and sell it on the streetâ€ idea didnâ€™t seem so crazy.
Day 7: Returned to the allergist. He recommended HEPA filters for my apartment, gave me a painful allergy test L and wrote TWO prescriptions!!!
The cost: $588
I then took a big gamble, I made a New Yearâ€™s Eve appointment to return to the dentist to repair a couple of fillings. If all went as planned, I would spend all the money on the last possible day — but since I was waiting until the last day of the year, if anything went wrong, I would forfeit more than 100 dollars.
The big day arrived! Todayâ€¦. would Uncle Sam beat me? I showed up for my dental appointment 3 minutes earlyâ€¦ ten minutes later I was in the chair. Mouth-washed and bibbed upâ€¦ here he comes.
â€œSally, bring me the flaxalatorâ€¦ the saw-y thingâ€
Gulp. Saw-y thing? Who is this guy? Did he say â€˜saw?â€™ Hmmmâ€¦ Uncle Sam could actually use that hundred bucks for â€¦
â€œYou know, Dawnâ€¦ this is going to be tricky. The way the previous filling is set-up, I would have toâ€¦. Blah blah blah bloopie, bloopie, bloopie â€¦ so I would just leave it alone until itâ€™s bothering you.â€
I rip off the bib (sweaty, knuckled fists of fear beat paper everytime!) Leap out of the chair and head for the exit.
The elevator ride down was very calming, but, as I left the building I felt defeated, cheated, bitter.
Gray Davis, I hardly knew ye.
As I headed to the subway station, I realized I wasnâ€™t very far from the eyeglasses shop I visited on Day 1.
Credit card in hand, I rushed over to the shop and surprise! They were open on New Yearâ€™s Eve.
â€œHi, I was in here last week, to buy a pair of glasses. I got a pair that my vision insurance pays for, but would it be possible to buy another pair or prescription sunglasses? Maybe something in Gucci or Burberry?â€
Now, I would be lying if I said the salesladyâ€™s eyes, spun round in her head like a Vegas slot machine and changed into flashing dollar signs — but dude: cha-ching!
For the next twenty minutes I was trying on frames and getting oohed and ahhhed by the fantastic salesteam at Fulton Street Eyewear, until I finally settled on a pair for 150 bucks!
Sure, I spent twenty bucks more than I had left in the account, but take that, Uncle Sam.
Now, for the moment in the dance of jubilant excess, where I wonder who really benefits from this â€œuse or lose itâ€ flexible spending plan. And give a shout out to all the starving children in China and Appalachia who do not have Hepa filters at all.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!