5 End-of-Year Health Insurance Tips
As we approach the end of the year, you may be able to cash in on a few opportunities that will be gone in the blink of an eye!
1. Get the most out of reaching your deductible.
If you’ve reached your deductible or are close, it’s an optimal time to get the medical treatment you’ve been avoiding. Now’s the time to schedule and get these done, because once the ball in Times Square drops, you’re deductible is going to reset to zero. Here’s a shortlist of what medical treatments you may be able to get at low or no cost:
- Prescriptions filled
- Dental check-up
- Physical (the kids need one every year!)
- Eye exams
- Blood Work
- Blood pressure/diabetes/cholesterol tests
- Heart Catheterization
- STD tests
- Vaccines (flu, Shingles, Hepatitis B, HPV)
2. Put off non-essential medical treatments.
On the flip side, if you are not close to reaching your deductible and have non-essential medical treatment that you’d like done, it’s probably better to save it for next year. By getting an expensive surgery or treatment now, the money you spend towards your deductible will be wiped out on January 1. Instead, get an expensive treatment done in early January, and knock out your deductible! Then you might be seeing cost-free treatment for you and your family for all of 2019!
Do you have an FSA, HSA, or HRA account set up? If you have no idea what those are, the bottom of this post has quick summaries of each. If you have no idea which, if any, you have, then you should probably ask your employer.
3. Spend all your FSA money!
Many employers have FSA incentive programs, leading to a lot of people having extra money in their FSA accounts. Luckily, the rules on what can be purchased with an FSA account are relatively lax.
In fact, if you’re pressed for time, there’s a whole online store dedicated to things that can be purchased with an FSA card called FSAStore! The site looks like Amazon, and has lots of great products such as knee/wrist support braces, bandages/wraps, medical creams, and much more!
If you have more time, there are lots of other greats things to spend your FSA money on. Here’s a list of some of our best ideas:
Catch all the Z’s you can:
Not getting a great night’s sleep? 2019 is going to have 365 nights in it, so why not spend a few FSA dollars on something to help you sleep better? Some of the things your FSA account allows you to buy include sleep-enhancing products such as sleep masks, thermal eye masks, vaporizers, heated blankets, sleeping pills, medical pillows, and more!
Have chronic pain due to arthritis or another condition? Chronic headaches or shoulder pain? Tried everything? If your FSA account lets you get it, why not give acupuncture a try before year’s end? Alternatively, your FSA can also cover chiropractor costs.
Get the glasses you’ve always wanted.
Always wanted a pair of prescription sunglasses? Get them with your FSA funds! Need new glasses or contacts? Those are covered as well! Reading glasses are also covered in most cases.
4. Invest in yourself with your HSA account.
If, on the other hand, you have an HSA, then your money rolls over into 2019. In that case, it may not be the best idea to splurge on things that aren’t necessary right now. If you have a lot of money built up in your HSA account, it might not be a bad idea to put some into a mutual fund. This is a great way to grow your money for a great cause: your health! If you see yourself having a large medical expense in the near future, you’ll want to keep your money out of any sort of mutual fund so it’s most accessible when you need it.
5.Check before you spend with an HRA account.
If you have an HRA then it’s important to know whether or not your unused balance will roll over into next year. Some plans do, some plans don’t. If your plan doesn’t allow rollovers, then follow the advice given for the HSA above. If your plan does allow rollovers, then follow our FSA tips. The kinds of things that you can get with your HRA are going to probably differ from a typical FSA list, so be sure to check with your employer what applies and what doesn’t before you go buy three heated blankets and a bunch of expensive, ergonomic pillows!
Have a favorite FSA item you buy every year? Drop it in the comments! Didn’t know you could buy so much cool stuff with your FSA money? We didn’t either!
As promised, descriptions of FSA, HSA, and HRA are below.
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an account where you can set aside pre-taxed money from your paycheck to use for medical expenses. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act limit the amount to a maximum of $2650. Most FSA accounts are “use it or lose it,” meaning money in the account does not roll over from year to year. Once the open enrollment period is over, you can only change your contribution amount if a qualifying life event occurs (change of employment, marriage, etc.). Your FSA is tied to your employer, so if you leave your job, you can’t take your FSA money with you (so use it up!).
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is similar to an FSA, the key difference being that you must be on a high-deductible health plan to enroll. In 2018, a high-deductible plan is defined as a deductible of $1,350 or more for an individual, or $2,700 or more for a family. Another key difference is that your contributions to the account can change whenever you want. Possibly its two greatest features are that money from your HSA rolls over from year to year and that your HSA account belongs to you (doesn’t matter if you change employers).
A Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) (sometimes called Health Reimbursement Account) is a special account that is very different from and FSA or HSA. In an HRA, an employee is offered a certain amount of pre-tax earnings to use on health care expenses from their employer. This can include an individual healthcare plan. The employee then gets the medical care they want, whether it be a health insurance plan or a collection of medical treatments, and gets reimbursed by the employer with the earnings in their HRA account. The employee must usually provide receipts or proof of care. This is usually the choice for a small business that can’t afford a large group plan.