Once More Unto The Breach
Tales of my second go-round with breast cancer before the age of 40, and everything since.

Money, Well . . . Spent

Let me start by saying that I have health insurance, and that I’m grateful for it.

Let me continue by expressing further gratitude for the fact that in addition to my own (primary) insurance, I currently have (secondary) coverage, courtesy of Zach and the Screen Actors Guild.

Because I have higher health-care expenses than most people, I’m also grateful to have a flexible spending account (FSA) through my employer, which allows me to set aside pre-tax income to cover out-of-pocket medical costs.

That gratitude extends to the 74-day grace period provided by my employer, which means that I had until March 15th, rather than December 31st, to exhaust the funds in my FSA so as not to forfeit them.

Being a planner, and wanting to show my gratitude for all of the above by taking full advantage of the benefits of my (double!) insurance coverage and my (extra-flexible!) flexible spending account, I set aside funds last year to cover the gum surgery I expected to have, in addition to the funds I typically set aside for my very many co-pay and co-insurance charges, unreimbursed expenses, and amounts beyond those deemed “reasonable and customary” by one or the other insurance carrier.

The gum surgery was supposed to happen in October but was postponed until January by a combination of bronchitis and lots of travel.

Had the surgery happened in October, I would have found out far earlier that instead of having to cover a large chunk of the cost myself, I would actually owe nothing. Contrary to reasonable and customary expectations, my two insurance carriers actually covered the entire cost of the surgery.

Not only that, but when I broke a tooth and unexpectedly needed a crown in December, the two carriers covered the entire cost of that as well.

Instead I found this out on March 14th, the day before the grace period expired.

Suddenly I had very little time and hundreds of dollars to spend.

And, as of January 1, expenses eligible for FSA reimbursement had been significantly restricted—no more over-the-counter drugs, for example, unless I had a prescription.

I scoured the list of eligible expenses and came up with two things I could buy within the deadline: first-aid kits or reading glasses.

And while first-aid kits are always useful, I would have had to buy a dozen or two to exhaust the money remaining in my account, and that seemed ridiculous. It also seemed likely that we’d have to visit several drug stores to find that many in stock.

So, on the eve of the deadline, off Zach and I went to the nearest eyewear shop that was still open when I got home from work.

And after trying on five or ten different frames, we settled on the only one that looked halfway decent on my face.

Originally I thought I’d be able to buy two or three pairs of reading glasses—one for home, one for work, and maybe a back-up pair for travel.

Well, this was a somewhat fancy store, and it carried nothing but designer frames.

As soon as I saw the price tag of the frames I’d selected, I realized that I was getting just one pair—and that that pair, once the lenses and the all-important anti-glare coating were factored in—would not only exhaust my 2010 FSA but dip into my 2011 account.

Did I mention that I already had a pair of reading glasses? One that I bought a year and a half ago at CVS or Walgreens, at the suggestion of my ophthalmologist? A pair I’d worn a grand total of three times?

So I am now the sheepish owner of what I will forever refer to as the world’s most expensive pair of reading glasses, ones that I now look for excuses to use in the hopes of amortizing their cost over the rest of my natural life.

But hey, at least I emptied my FSA before the deadline.

I’d hate to have wasted all that money.


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