There’s a lot happening this time of year, and in the rush of the holidays, consumers may overlook one important thing to think about: insurance benefits.
For many consumers with health, vision or dental insurance, annual benefits and deductibles will reset on Jan. 1. Many may forget to take advantage of insurance benefits that expire, and fail to schedule medical care in order to take full advantage of their deductibles, or to fully fund their health savings accounts.
Don’t miss out on calendar-year benefits. Some health insurance plans cover annual physicals with little or no out-of-pocket cost, and it’s nice to start the new year with a clean bill of health. Your eligibility for a dental checkup, a vision checkup, or vision hardware like contacts or a new pair of glasses, may also follow a calendar-year schedule. Check with your insurance company to see if you’re still eligible for services like these in 2012.
Work your deductible. Many health insurance plans come with a deductible that resets every calendar year. If you’ve already met your deductible for 2012, or are close to it, medical care rendered before the end of the year may be covered at a lower out-of-pocket cost to you. Conversely, if you’re a long way from fulfilling this year’s deductible but expect to have a lot of medical expenses in 2013, you may want to delay non-emergency care until early next year so that you can fulfill next year’s deductible sooner.
Be smart with FSA dollars. Funds in employer-sponsored flexible spending accounts don’t roll over from year to year. Check with your human resources department or FSA administrator to see if you have money left in your account, and make use of it before the end of December. If you’re a heavy FSA-user, note that the maximum contribution to an FSA is decreasing to $2,500 starting in 2013. If that’s not enough for your needs next year, consider switching to an HSA-eligible health insurance plan and opening a HSA.
Fund your HSAs to the max. If you have an HSA and an HSA-eligible health insurance plan, maximize your tax savings by fully funding it. As with FSAs, money can be saved in an HSA on a pre-tax or tax-deductible basis to pay for qualified medical care. Unlike FSAs, the money in your HSA is yours to keep and funds can roll over and grow year after year until retirement. The contribution limit for HSAs in 2012 is $3,100 for individual coverage, or $6,250 for family coverage.
Get a jump on healthy News Year’s resolutions. Check with your health insurance company to see if they offer discounts with local or national health clubs. Ask your employer or health insurance company if they offer special money-saving incentives or discounts for achieving specific wellness milestones. Staying healthy over the long term can improve your quality of life and help keep your medical and health insurance costs in check.