Sometimes we just need to pick up something from CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, or another pharmacy. Maybe it’s first aid supplies, or cold/cough medications, eye drops, toothpaste, pain relievers, vitamins or personal care items. While shopping, have you seen the OTC tags on the shelves? As it turns out several years ago CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) “tweaked” the program, which encouraged some plans to add a new benefit to some health insurance plans called the OTC or Over-the-Counter benefit. And this benefit MAY SAVE YOU MONEY! As an example, at CVS you’ll see this tag in the Allergy section by the Fluticasone nasal spray. (The tag number may be different for on-line purchases.) The tag indicates an item that is eligible for purchase with your OTC benefit. The OTC benefit is different for different plans, but will generally create a bank of money for the member which allows him/her to buy items costing a total of $25, $40 (or more) every three months at no cost to the member. If the money is not spent, it is no longer available to the member, i.e. use it or lose it. Some health insurance plans allow members to purchase select items at select local pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens or Walmart. Others may only provide this benefit if the member purchases on-line from a select mail-order pharmacy. While most of the health insurance plans with OTC benefits have a website where members can view & order items from the OTC product list, some also have paper catalogs. Last week I was in CVS on Pine Island and saw paper catalogs for United Health Care, WellCare, Aetna, Ascension, Vivida, Molina, WellCare, Florida Community Care, and Simply plans – some of them in Spanish. Given the number of health care plans in Florida, there are undoubtedly many more. Bottom line… you may want to check your health insurance policy for OTC benefits… there may be times when it can save you money! By Penny Higgins