There are ways to reduce the financial burden brought on by ADHD. But often, families lose out because they are unaware of tax breaks and assistance programs or run up against problems with their insurance plan. If this happens to you, though, Peter Jensen, M.D., author of Making the System Work for Your Child with ADHD insists, "Don't take this sitting down. ADHD is every bit a biomedical problem as strep throat." Here are seven more strategies that can significantly reduce your expenses. Some of these may apply to your situation, and some may not, but Dr. Jensen reminds us that "Nothing works all the time. Yes, this can be discouraging, but that's why it's important to keep at it, try all your options, and continue with those that get you the best results. Don't give up!"
1. Take advantage of a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA), if offered by your employer
Just 16 percent of those offered the benefit (which enables an employee to set aside pre-tax dollars for medical expenses), in 2005 actually enrolled, according to a study by Hewitt Associates, an employee-benefits consulting firm. Granted, an FSA's "use it or lose it" provision can be intimidating, but many families find that the one-time annoyance of estimating their expenses ultimately translates to considerable savings throughout the year. Remember, though, expenses for which you are fully reimbursed by your FSA do not qualify as medical expenses for the tax deduction. You may need to decide which of these two options makes more sense for your family. For more information, see IRS Publication 969 at irs.gov/publications/p969.
2. Look into the medical tax deduction
If your itemized deductions exceed your standard deduction and your family's medical expenses total at least 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, you qualify. Remember to include your own expenses—for co-pays and contact lenses, as well as for any specialized care—along with your kids'.
You may be surprised to learn how many LD/ADD expenses the IRS will count toward an FSA or the medical tax deduction. (A doctor's recommendation, as well as a medical diagnosis of a neurological disorder, may be required, so tax preparation advice is recommended.) These include:
- Diagnostic evaluations
- Tuition to a special school that has a program designed to educate children with severe learning disabilities
- Tutoring conducted by a teacher specially trained and qualified to deal with severe learning disabilities
- Admission to medical conferences that cover ADHD
- Transportation expenses—including parking fees and tolls—incurred traveling to a special school or tutor (if by car, the allowable expense for 2004 is 14¢ per mile)
For a complete list of qualifying medical expenses and for more information, see IRS Publication 502- Medical and Dental Expenses.
3. File an amended tax return retroactively
If you're thinking "if only I had known this then," you're in luck: you can file returns retroactively up to three years, so expenses dating as far back as 2001 can be claimed if the amended return is filed by this April 15. After reviewing their expenses, "I have seen people have a eureka! moment and get thousands and thousands of dollars back," says Michael O'Connor, a Chicago tax attorney. See IRS Publication 17, Tax Guide, for more information.
4. Spend the time to thoroughly analyze insurance plans
Lucky enough to have a choice of carriers or plans? If you set aside an afternoon to compare last year's medical expenses to what is covered under each option, you'll pick the plan best suited to your family's needs—and end up saving money in the long run.
5. Develop friendly relationships with the specialists you consult as well as your insurer
Explain your family's financial situation to your specialists. They may be willing to give you a discount or to make an exception and accept your insurance plan. Dr. Jensen suggests, "Get to know the customer service representative at your insurer by her first name," he says, "and follow up with a nice thank-you note after she has been even the tiniest bit helpful. Remember, so much more can happen when you develop a personal relationship."
6. Seek out an insurance assistance program
Uninsured children 18 and younger whose families earn less than $34,100 a year (for a family of four) often qualify for their state's low-cost or free health insurance programs. Insure Kids Now!, a service of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, explains these programs and provides links to each state's initiative.
7. Investigate patient assistance programs designed to help the uninsured or underinsured with medication costs
Helpingpatients.org, devised by The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, lists initiatives sponsored by drug manufacturers as well as by government and local organizations.