Sunday, October 29, 2017

Open Enrollment

My husband and I are fortunate enough to be covered by health insurance through his employer. Even though our premiums have increased and benefits have decreased over the years, we're still better off compared to those who have to purchase health insurance through the exchanges.

This time of year brings open enrollment for most plans, when it's a good idea to take a look at your coverage options for 2018 and make changes if necessary. Do you need to add or drop a family member? Go for a richer plan to keep or upgrade to the coverage you need, or drop down to something cheaper to save on premiums? Adjust contributions to a Health Savings or Flexible Spending Account?

Another consideration is to avoid leaving money on the table. If you have a Flexible Spending Account, you most likely must use the money for qualified medical/dental/vision expenses before the end of the year, or risk losing it. How about making an appointment with an eye doctor, getting your teeth cleaned, or having a skin cancer screening if you have not yet done so?

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are portable and the balance carries over from year to year, so no need to worry about spending that money now if you don't have to. But check to see if you've reached your funding limit, and back out any excess contributions.

An individual can contribute up to $3400 to an HSA for 2017; if the account covers other family members, the limit increases to $6750. If you're over 55, you can contribute an additional $1000. If the account is associated with your workplace high-deductible healthcare plan, you can probably make regular, automatic contributions on a pre-tax basis. If you transfer after-tax money from your bank account to your HSA, you may deduct those contributions on your income tax return. Fortunately, you have until April 15, 2018, to fund your 2017 HSA, so if you can't afford to make all your contributions before the holidays, you haven't lost out.

Like many companies these days, my husband's employer gives incentives for completing certain health actions (completing a survey, having an annual physical, being tobacco-free, achieving favorable biometric results, etc.) which translate into real money deposited into his HSA. Most of these health actions must be completed by the end of the year if not sooner; if you have such an opportunity, don't pass it up.

Open enrollment is the best time for an annual financial check-up to ensure you're taking advantage of all the benefits of your healthcare plan, and to make the best possible health insurance decisions for 2018 for you and your family.

What suggestions do you have for making the most of your healthcare dollars? I'd love to hear your comments.

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