Year-End Health Moves for Better Financial Fitness
December 21, 2011
As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good idea to evaluate your health situation — especially as it relates to insurance — and make a few moves that can save you money. You might be surprised at your options, and you can improve your financial situation with a little help from some of these moves:
Change Your Health Plan
The end of the year is when many companies go through open enrollment. This means that you have the chance to change your health plan. Don’t just keep things the same because you’re too busy, make sure to review your coverage and how much you’re paying for it.
Do you really still need maternity coverage? Has your emergency fund grown enough that you can afford a higher deductible? Make sure you have adequate coverage, and look for ways to limit premium costs.
If you are in reasonably good health with few health needs, a high deductible health plan can really help you save money. Raise your deductible, and watch your premiums drop. However, you want to make sure that the additional money you pay out of pocket is affordable.
Contribute to a Health Savings Account
If you have a high deductible plan, you are usually eligible to open a Health Savings Account (HSA). You can receive a tax deduction for contributing to a HSA. This is a great way to reduce your taxable income while saving up money for health care costs.
Your money grows tax-free, and as long as you use the money in your account for qualified health care costs, you never have to pay taxes on it. (If you withdraw money otherwise, the rules are the same as a traditional IRA.) The good news is that, like an IRA, some companies let you contribute into the next year.
Check with your benefits department but to see if you have until the middle of April the following year to make contributions.
Use Your Flexible Spending Account Money
Many health insurance plans come with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). You can put money in these accounts, and receive a tax benefit, and then use it for health care expenses. However, unlike the Health Savings Account, which rolls over year to year and grows, the money in the FSA doesn’t roll over. It’s a use it or lose it situation.
So now is the time to use that money. Make your doctor appointments, or buy needed supplies. Remember, though, that if you want to be able to use FSA money for over the counter medications, you still need a doctor’s prescription.
Start Living Healthier
Make a resolution — and a plan — to start living healthier. Your health costs will be much lower long term if you take care of yourself. Create a plan to exercise more and eat better.
Ben’s getting a head start on his health resolutions by swearing off all sweets for the holidays. While you don’t have to swear off sweets forever, you can adjust some of your habits so that you are living in a healthier manner. Also, remember that relaxation, and stress relief can be great ways to improve health.
Look for ways to make small changes to your lifestyle so that you won’t need to spend as much money on health care. Many chronic — and expensive — conditions and diseases can be controlled or avoided with the help of better health habits.
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