4 Steps to Spending Your Stimulus Check Wisely

4 Steps to Spending Your Stimulus Check Wisely

Most Americans don’t have an emergency fund. While we’re all experiencing this pandemic very differently — some having only minor inconveniences and others finding themselves without a job or having to close their business — those without a savings cushion are vulnerable to feeling the ramifications of COVID-19 for a very long time.
There will be tough financial decisions to make once you receive your stimulus check. Here are active steps you can take, along with things to consider to help you develop a solid spending plan.

1. Make a list of all expenses

Write out every single expense that you have, including essentials like food and utilities. Be sure to go through your checking and savings account history to make sure you don’t have any “vampire” expenses, like monthly subscriptions that you may have forgotten about and no longer need.

2. Talk to all creditors and lenders

The CARES Act puts into effect two mortgage relief provisions: protection from foreclosure, and a right to forbearance (pausing or making partial payments) for those experiencing loss of income due to COVID-19. However, the provisions are not automatic and are only for federal loans, so you MUST talk to your lender.

If a creditor/lender offers you a payment plan or other relief, make sure you get it in writing and take note of the names and dates of the customer service representatives with whom you speak.

Thankfully, some utility companies have announced they won’t cut off services if they aren’t being paid. Be sure you know all of your utility and service providers’ stance on this, so there are no surprises. You don’t want to make any assumptions.

3. Prioritize expenses

Expenses relating to food, shelter, and medicine should come first. This would include mortgage, rent, utilities, groceries, diapers, and medications. It also includes medical insurance premiums and homeowners/renter’s insurance.

If you need childcare to work, that is another essential expense. Next in line are auto-related expenses, including transportation, gas, insurance premiums, and car payments.

Loans that are secured by collateral (for example, mortgages and auto loans) are generally considered more important than those without collateral, like consumer credit card debt. For example, if you don’t pay your mortgage, a bank can foreclose on your property; if you don’t pay your car loan, the bank can seize your car. While not paying your credit card bills will negatively affect your credit score, credit card companies will not come into your house and take your personal possessions.

Federal student loans are currently not accruing interest until September 30, 2020, and can be put into forbearance so that no payments are due. If you have a private or institutional loan, you will have to contact the lender for other options.

Remember, if you can afford the minimum payments on your credit cards, then make those payments. It will help to maintain your credit score.

Expenses for “elective” items, like gym memberships, streaming services, and other subscriptions, come last. Before simply canceling a contract, make sure to contact the vendor – canceling may come with a hefty penalty, but you may be able to temporarily “pause” the service.

4. Pay your debts in the order of priority.

Now that you know all your expenses, have prioritized them, and know your payment options with creditors and lenders, it’s time to make the payments in order of priority.

It’s important to note that many are still receiving their tax refunds now, too. If you receive a refund, you can apply the same process to that extra income.

If you are still unsure or are overwhelmed with where to start, use our decision tree for guidance on what to do with your stimulus check and tax refund.

Source: Americasaves.org

Effects of COVID-19 on Your A&M System Health Plans

Effects of COVID-19 on Your A&M System Health Plans

The federal government, state government, and local entities have made various changes to health plan policies in response to COVID-19. Information regarding the coronavirus is changing rapidly and A&M System Benefits Administration is monitoring the news and updates. Below are changes to your health plan and programs in effect at this time:

  • As of 03/16, the co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 testing consistent with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been waived by the A&M System health plans.
  • Express Scripts has authorized payment to pharmacies for up to a 90-day supply of any prescription medication for individuals, regardless of when the prescription was filled, provided the member has refills remaining. This applies to both retail pharmacies and Express Scripts mail-order.
  • The MDLIVE virtual visits copay of $20 has been temporarily waived for all services until further notice.
  • A&M Care members can receive telemedicine services from their network physicians, who provide it, for medically-necessary, covered medical and behavioral health services for a zero copay until April 30th. The claim must indicate services were provided via telemedicine/telehealth.
  • Graduate student employees on the Grad plan can also use telemedicine services via in-network providers who offer the service or via MDLIVE for no copay until April 30 or otherwise extended.
  • The A&M System has extended the wellness incentive program completion date to August 31, 2020 and will be adding additional digital activities to everyone’s checklists. There are several checklist activities, such as Well onTarget Self-Management Programs, educational HealthQuests, and MDLIVE registration, that can be completed digitally/virtually and we encourage members to participate in those programs to promote their health and wellbeing during this stressful time. Not all members have the same checklist items and further information can be found on the System Benefits Administration website.
  • Due to the closing of day cares and employers directing employees to work from home, enrolled employees are eligible to reduce their dependent day care flexible spending account contributions through a Life Event Benefit Change. They will be able to change their deductions again when they return to work, as it will still be considered a Life Event.

You can find more health and wellness resources about COVID-19 on the System Benefits Administration website.

Using Express Scripts Mail Order

Express Scripts mail-order is a convenient way to get your prescription drugs delivered to your home and ensure you stay adherent to your medication by planning in advance. You will also receive reduced copays for getting a 90-day supply via mail-order rather than purchasing a 60-day supply at retail for eligible drugs.

Benefits of Using Mail-Order Services

One of the greatest problems associated with maintenance medications is adherence. Maintenance drugs are medications prescribed for chronic, long-term conditions that are taken on a regular, recurring basis. Using a mail-order service to refill your maintenance prescriptions is a convenient way to ensure you have enough of the medication delivered directly to your home. Express Scripts mail-order service provides the following benefits:

  • Get up to a 90-day supply of each covered medication for a lower co-payment – two copays rather than three (subject to plan limitations, rules, and state regulations, such as controlled substances).
  • Registered pharmacists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Order refills online, by mail, or by phone – anytime day or night. To order online, register at www.express-scripts.com. Refills are usually delivered within 8 days after Express Scripts receives your order.
  • Choose a convenient payment option – check, money order, credit card, or Express Scripts automatic payment program
  • Automatic Refills
  • Standard shipping is free

Submitting a Prescription through Mail Order

Your 90-day mail-order prescription should be sent to:

Express Scripts, Inc. P.O. Box 650322 Dallas, Texas 75265-0322

Or, you may ask your doctor to call 1-888-327-9791 for instructions on how to fax the prescription to Express Scripts (ESI). Your doctor will need to use your social security number or ESI member ID number to complete the transaction. (Only doctors can fax prescriptions to ESI.)

Order Delivery Times

First-time orders arrive within 8 to 11 days. Refills usually arrive in less time – 7 to 9 days, however, you can call to request expedited delivery. At www.express-scipts.com you can review detailed order status information. The best time to reorder is when you have about a 14-day supply of your medication remaining. This will help ensure that the medication is received when it is needed.

Express Scripts Value-Added Programs

Express Scripts, the prescription drug provider for the A&M Care plans, has several value-added programs. These, and other Express Scripts programs, can be found on the System Benefits Administration website at https://www.tamus.edu/business/benefits-administration/prescriptions-express-scripts/.

Pulmonary Care Value Program

Express Scripts (ESI) created the Pulmonary Care Value (PCV) program to improve adherence since a large majority of asthma patients fail to take their medication as directed.

  • Patients must fill all pulmonary care maintenance medications as 90-day prescriptions from Walgreens, home delivery, or certain other local pharmacies. Express Scripts provides access to one-on-one support from a team of extensively trained clinicians through their Pulmonary Therapeutic Resource CenterSM (TRC).
  • High-risk patients will be offered remote monitoring devices to help optimize medication use and maximize their health. When monitoring shows that patients overuse their rescue inhalers or are not adherent to controller medications, pulmonary TRC pharmacists will reach out with individualized support.
  • Some members will also be offered the Mango Health app – a patient engagement solution that gamifies health and rewards patients for making healthy decisions


Diabetes Care Value Program

The Diabetes Care Value Program combines a quality-based pharmacy network and a holistic approach to diabetes patient care. The program applies to all A&M Care health plan members who purchase oral and injectable diabetes drugs as well as the diabetes blood glucose test strips. The program requires that:

  • diabetes-related prescriptions be filled with a 90-day supply rather than a 30-day supply, and
  • diabetes-related prescriptions be filled through Express Scripts Home Delivery (mail-order) or a Walgreens pharmacy (retail).

The two main goals of the program are better patient adherence to diabetes medications and control of rapidly increasing costs. Aside from specialty medications used to treat debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis or HIV, spending on diabetic medications is the next highest spend. Controlling health plan costs helps offset premium increases and benefit reductions.

Superior Vision Online Partnerships

Superior Vision Online Partnerships

Beginning March 4, 2020, Superior Vision has partnered with Glasses.com and 1-800 Contacts to provide an in-network online shopping solution that includes seamless integration with your vision benefits and automatic claims submission. Both vendors feature mobile app and online ordering, virtual customer service, speedy delivery, and a pay-over-time solution.

In order to complete your purchase on Glasses.com:

  1. Go through the Checkout process until you reach the Order Confirmation Page.
  2. In the top right of the page, click the “Vision Insurance” radio button and enter your information.

In order to complete your purchase on 1-800 Contacts:

  1. Go to SuperiorVision.com and select “Shop Online”.
  2. Go to 1800contacts.com and enter the name and DOB on your vision insurance card.
  3. It populates your benefit information. Select “Use insurance on my order” and proceed to shop for your brand preference.
  4. Continue to checkout and enter or upload your prescription. Give 1-800 Contacts permission to verify your prescription with your provider.

If you have any issues, contact the customer service team of the respective website from which you are trying to order. If for some reason they are unable to verify your insurance, please contact Superior Vision at 844-549-2603.

Glasses.com Flyer

1-800 Contacts Flyer

Dependent Social Security Number Reminder

As part of compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the A&M System Benefits Administration Office is required to request Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for covered dependents. This information will remain confidential. If you have dependents covered through your A&M System health plan for whom you have not provided an SSN or if you are unsure as to whether you have previously provided your dependent’s SSN(s), go online to Workday (https://sso.tamus.edu/) to check and enter an SSN. After logging into Workday, click on the Benefits Worklet. On the Benefits screen, select Change Dependents.