Use It or Lose It: Health Care Benefits

Use It or Lose It: Health Care Benefits

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There is just something unsettling about throwing away spoiled food or leftovers. Maybe it’s a missed gourmet experience or the dreadful smell of the Tupperware. More significantly though, letting good food go bad is a waste of money. But, holiday leftovers may not be the only thing going to waste this time of year. Certain health care benefits also have a shelf-life that is quickly approaching. To make the most of any left-over ingredients, consider getting creative with a refrigerator pie. To maximize your health benefits, think about this:

Let’s face it, many of us put off non-emergency medical procedures, like getting a mole removed.  If you’ve already met your insurance deductible or out-of-pocket maximum for the year, now could be a great time to move up the appointment with your dermatologist or finally schedule more expensive procedures you’ve been putting off like dental work, an MRI or a stress test. While waiting until after the new year may sound easier, remember that you are also waiting for a whole new deductible, ensuring that you will pay more.

If you contribute to a health flexible spending account (FSA), remember: use it or lose it. A healthcare FSA plan is an employer-provided benefit that allows employees to set aside up to $2,550 to be used for approved medical expenses throughout the year. The benefit of an FSA is that contributions are not subject to income tax. But, as with all tax-related perks, there is a catch: if you don’t use the funds, you lose them.  Depending on your plan, one of two options will exist to help you use your funds:

  1. Carry over up to $500 of unused funds contributed in 2015 to cover expenses in 2016 (think of them like rollover minutes).  Funds in excess of $500 will be forfeited- as in gone and lost for good, OR…
  2. Use balance in account by March 15th, 2016 or they will be forfeited.

Fortunately, the list of approved expenses is pretty broad and includes paying for co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions and items like sunscreen, first aid kits, lip balm, contact solution, eye glasses and lenses.  Check with your employer for carry over rules and a complete list of qualified expenses.

Missing out on health benefits may not be as messy as cleaning out your refrigerator, but it will surely stink, regardless.  So, do something this month to maximize your savings!