How to Prepare for Flu Costs

Kristina Kraus
Greater Nevada Credit Union
Along with the wonderful sounds of sleigh bells and Christmas carols, every winter we can expect to hear the sneezing, coughing and fever producing sickness that is known as the flu. Running typically from October to April, flu season is by far my least favorite season of the year.

It’s been three years since my last flu episode (knock on wood), but I can still remember the 10 days of nausea and weakness that made me absolutely miserable.  Getting the flu is never fun and when you aren’t prepared for it, sometimes it can turn into a financial stress, too. With a 20% chance of getting the flu, it is important to find out the impact it can have on your wallet and what steps you can take to avoid it:

Average Costs

If you’re lucky, sometimes you can escape the entire season by simply getting a flu vaccination. The average cost of the flu shot is $35 per person and is often covered by insurance. However, if you do get the flu the costs increase significantly. When you add up the Tylenol, tissues, doctor visits and anti-biotics, you could easily spend $130 and that is if you have insurance. For those who don’t have insurance, the doctor visit alone could be over $100 and the medication could be another $100.

We all know that the flu spreads fast. If one person in your household gets it there’s a good chance it will latch on to someone else. For a family of four or more this can take a serious hit on savings, especially around the holidays.

Impact on the Economy

When you get the flu, it impacts more than just your own finances. Of the 20% in the United States who will get the flu, the CDC says it costs more than $87 million annually for indirect medical expenses. An estimated $16.3 billion in lost earnings also occurs each year.

It’s also important to think about how much your employer loses when employees have to call in sick. Not only do companies pay an average of $135 when an employee is out sick, employees themselves lose an average of $92 per year if they don’t get paid sick time.  It’s a lose-lose situation for both the employee and employer when the flu strikes.

How to Prepare and Avoid

Bite the bullet, get the shot.

The bottom line is that the flu can be a huge cost compared to simply taking the time to get vaccinated. Whether you’re scared of shots or like to make excuses, the potential costs associated with having the flu aren’t worth it.

Michael Magill, M.D., chair of University of Utah Health Care’s Department of Family and Preventative Medicine said, “Statistics show that flu shots are generally 40 to 60 percent effective in preventing the flu, which makes the vaccine a worthwhile investment. Not only will you save yourself missed work days, you’ll also save yourself a lot of grief from a nasty bout with the flu.”

In addition to the shot, it’s always important to remember the basics: stay away from those who are sick and wash your hands! Reducing the spreading of germs is extremely important when trying to protect yourself and loved ones during flu season.

Save smarter.

But what do you do if you get the shot and still get the flu? If you’re worried about not getting by if you or your family comes down with the flu, a Health Savings Account (HSA) may be an option to help ease your mind and your wallet. In order to get the benefits of an HSA, the law requires that you have a high deductible insurance plan. Some of the advantages of an HSA include that the account is tax-deductible, withdrawals are tax-free, and unlike a flexible spending account, unused money will roll over and continue to grow tax-deferred.

Some of us might not get the flu, or maybe only have it for a few days, but there’s always the chance that it becomes serious, and having a little extra saved away for the flu or any kind of sickness will help.