Alamo Optometry Blog

November 29, 2010

Holiday Open House and End of Year Planning

Filed under: Uncategorized — gkblog @ 8:08 pm

Holiday Open House and End of Year Planning

(As appeared in Alamo Today, December 2010, pg. 33)

             It is amazing that we are getting near the end of the year.  This year has had its ups and downs, but mostly business has been positive.  To show our appreciation and to share in the holidays with our patients, our office is hosting our first Holiday Open House and Trunk Show on December 9 from 4-7 p.m.  We will be having our normal frame selection available plus the representatives from Kate Spade and Coach with their entire frame lines to look through.  We will be having hourly raffles, food and drinks, and conversation with our patients in a non-examination situation. 

In addition to preparing for our Open House, we are constantly being asked during this time of year about flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health spending accounts (HSA).  I thought I would give a quick review about both of these plans and how to fully utilize them by the end of the year.

            A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is one of a number of tax-advantaged financial accounts that can be set up through a cafeteria plan of your employer.  An FSA allows an employee to set aside a portion of his or her earnings to pay for qualified expenses as established in the cafeteria plan; most commonly for medical expenses but also often for dependent care or other expenses including eye care, dental, and orthodontics.   Money deducted from an employee’s pay into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, resulting in a substantial payroll tax savings.  The important thing to remember is that any unused money not spent by December 31 will be forfeited by the employee.  As the end of the year approaches, it is paramount that you know how much is left in your account to ensure full utilization. 

            By comparison, a Health Savings Account (HSA), is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to employees who are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) for your medical insurance. The funds contributed to the account can be made by both the employer and employee and are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account, funds roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent.  Funds may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

            The government has a wide range of specified expenses that qualify as a medical expense.  These include any office co-pays, pharmacy bills, any necessary or elective surgical procedures (including LASIK), dental bills, and laboratory bills.  Included in that list is any vision correction device (glasses, computer glasses, contact lenses, sports goggles, etc.) and sunglasses (prescription and non-prescription).  As long as your purchase is made by the end of the year, it will count on your 2010 account balance. 

In addition to these tax-friendly accounts, do not forget to utilize your vision insurance.  At our office, we are providers for Vision Service Plan (VSP), Eyemed (which can include vision coverage for Anthem Blue Cross and Aetna if the plan has a eye care provision), Medical Eye Servies (MES), and Medicare.  All plans have an exam benefit and have variable material allowances towards glasses or contact lenses.  Some plans recycle on the change of the new year, so this is an optimal time to use your benefits.  Between your vision coverage and your FSA or HSA, most if not all of your charges will be covered.

We are looking forward to our first annual holiday open house and trunk show.  We plan on having it be a staple of our and the community’s holdiay season.  We invite anyone to come in on December 9 to look at our office, meet our staff, shop our glasses and sunglasses, and enjoy mingling with local friends and family.  We look forward to seeing you this holiday season and in the years to come.

November 2, 2010

InfantSEE

Filed under: Uncategorized — gkblog @ 9:42 pm

InfantSEE Program

(As appeared in Alamo Today, November 2010, pg. 29)

        Our office has recently enrolled in the InfantSEE program, which allows an infant from 6 to 12 months of age a one-time, no charge comprehensive eye examination.  We believe that this is an extremely valuable program and are proud to be providers. 

            An InfantSEE assessment between six and 12 months of age is recommended to determine if an infant is at risk for eye or vision disorders. Since many eye problems arise from conditions that can be identified by an eye doctor in the infant’s first year of life, a parent can give an infant a great gift by seeking an InfantSEE assessment in addition to the wellness evaluation of the eyes that is done by a pediatrician or family practice doctor.  This program is meant to be an adjunct to the pediatrician exams and testing, not a replacement for scheduled well-baby visits.

            According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), one in every 10 children is at risk from undiagnosed eye and vision problems, yet only 13 percent of mothers with children younger than 2 years of age said they had taken their babies to see an eye and vision care professional for a regular check-up or well-care visit. Moreover, many children at risk for eye and vision problems are not being identified at an early age, when many of those problems might be prevented or more easily corrected. Some 4.02 million children were born in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In approximately 4 percent, strabismus (an eye turn) will develop, and amblyopia (where one or both eyes are not correctable to 20/20 vision) will develop in 3 percent-this equates to as many as 100,000 infants born each year who are at risk for serious eye and vision problems.

            Early intervention is critical to successful and cost-effective treatment. Despite the nation’s present system of preschool vision screening, there exists a lack of understanding by the public of the importance of periodic professional eye and vision assessments. Unfortunately, during the course of their young lives, most children probably never see an eye care practitioner who can provide the kind of professional eye assessment necessary to identify critical eye and vision problems at an early stage, explain those conditions to parents, and provide the care necessary to correct those problems.

            When you call the office to schedule the examination, make it at a time when your child tends to be rested and fed.  The goal of the evaluation is to ensure that your child is within normal expected ranges for such things as vision and prescription, eye movements, pupil function, and ocular health.  The data that is collected at the exam is then kept in your child’s chart and can be used as a baseline for future examinations.  If a condition is found that requires further testing, your child will be referred to the appropriate specialist.  In addition, we can forward the information to your child’s pediatrician so he/she is kept informed about the process and the results of the evaluation.  We have some toys in the office to help focus your child during the exam and to help entertain any other siblings that are present in the exam room.  We look forward to providing this valuable service to the young children in our community to ensure everyone gets off on the right foot regarding their vision and ocular health.

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