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Tips to Help Make the Most of Your Health Plan Before Year-End

During the holiday season, many Americans are making plans to travel and celebrate with family and friends. But, one plan is often overlooked: taking steps to make the most of your health benefits. Doing so could help save money and may improve their overall wellness.


Here are five tips to consider that could help:

Get Ahead of Health Issues: 
People with employer-sponsored, individual or Medicare and Medicaid plans have access to a slew of preventive services that can help detect diseases and encourage well-being. Before the year ends, take advantage of your plan’s health screenings, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and depression, as well as timely vaccines, like the flu shot. Some preventive services may even be available at no additional cost based on your individual health plan.

Delay Non-Emergency Services: 
A growing number of employers and consumers are choosing health plans with higher deductibles, meaning that the fixed amount they have to pay before insurance kicks in is higher than other plans. In fact, nearly 45 percent of Americans are enrolled in such plans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If this applies to you, check if you have reached your deductible for this year. If not, it may make sense to delay non-emergency services, such as a joint replacement, until 2019. That way the cost for those services would apply to your 2019 deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. It increases the likelihood that your health plan would pay for more of your medical expenses in the next year.

Schedule Recommended Health Services: 
If you’ve reached your deductible, now’s the time to consider scheduling those recommended health services. For example, a routine doctor’s visit will likely be covered (all or in part) by your health plan. If possible, tell your health care professional that you’ve reached your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, and see if there’s any needed follow-up care that can be arranged before the end of the year.

Understand Your Spending Accounts: 
Many people have spending accounts with funds earmarked for health care services. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) offer tax advantages, and the money can roll over from year to year. If you contribute money to your HSA before the year ends, you can help pay for qualified medical services in 2019, or even later, while lowering your taxable income for 2018. On the other hand, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) require the money to be spent before the year ends, and unused balances are not rolled over to the next calendar year. For example, if you have funds left in your FSA and need to order contact lenses, schedule a dental cleaning or refill prescriptions, now’s the time to do that before those funds go to waste. 


Prepare to Use Your 2019 Benefits: 
This year’s open enrollment season is wrapping up. According to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey, more than 40 percent said they devoted less than one hour to the process, meaning they may not have explored some of the many options available to them. Before the year is out, take time to review your health plan and check with your employer’s HR department to determine what well-being incentives or other resources might be available when 2019 starts. Nearly 75 percent of employers offer well-being programs, with an average incentive of $742 annually, according to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health. By finding out now what incentives are available, you can help prepare yourself to start earning all or some of those rewards starting New Year’s Day.