Three Year-End Strategies to Maximize Health Benefits

Tuesday December 1st, 2015

Estimated time to read: 1 minute, 30 seconds

As the year comes to an end, many people are considering how they can maximize their health benefits before a new plan year begins.

Schedule a Dental Check-Up

If you have avoided seeing your dentist all year, the final months mark a good time to make that happen. Many dental plans work differently than medical plans because they have annual caps. This is especially smart if you have dental work that needs to be done, such as crowns, fillings or root canals. This will allow you to spread the cost over this year and the next, which means you pay less out of pocket.

Use Your Pre-Tax Funds

While some employers allow employees to roll over a portion of unused Flexible Spending Account (FSA) funds, it is usually only $500 or less that can be rolled over. Anything over that set amount is forfeited, which is just a waste of your own money that you have set aside. There are a lot of expenses that qualify, so look through your previous health care costs to see if there are any that you didn’t receive reimbursement for in the past year. You can also stock up on eligible health supplies - from braces to smoking cessation programs to vision expenses.

On the other hand, if you have a health savings account (HSA), you don’t need to worry about spending the money prior to year-end. HSA funds can be rolled over to the next year for use on eligible medical expenses.

Check Your Deductible

A deductible is the amount you are responsible to pay before your health insurance plan begins to pay for health care expenses. As year-end approaches, check how much you have met toward your deductible. If you have seen the doctor a lot in the past year, or have had larger medical procedures, it is possible that you have met or are close to meeting the deductible. It will start over on January 1 (if your plan year is a calendar year) so you can maximize benefits by scheduling any necessary medical care prior to December 31. If you aren’t close to meeting it, you may want to wait for non-emergent care until after the New Year, since these expenses will go toward the 2016 deductible.

When you have paid into these health care programs and accounts all year, it makes sense to look for ways to maximize usage and make sure you aren’t wasting or losing your own money that you have set aside for health expenses.