Health insurance bills can be confusing, archaic and just plain expensive. But there are ways to bring the expense down and keep things organized—and right now is the time to do it.
It’s open enrollment season, which means your company will allow you to enroll in its healthcare benefits or make changes to your plan. This is a precious opportunity, so don’t let it go to waste! Here’s how to take full advantage:
1. Don’t let it pass you by. The first step is to call your HR representative to find out exactly when your open enrollment period begins and ends, which varies from company to company. If you miss this window then your plan will stay the same, or you might miss the opportunity to get a flexible spending account, which requires that you re-enroll each year. Once you find out, make yourself an alert on your calendar so you don’t forget!
2. Figure out what is best for you. I chose a plan with low premium and high co-pays because I’m single and healthy, and I’m a once-a-year checkup kind of person. Someone with chronic health problems or someone with kids will want a higher premium but lower co-pays. Visit your health care provider’s website to see if it has a tool to calculate what plan is best for you. If you’re married, you should also look at your spouse’s plan to see if his or hers is better.
3. Consider an HSA or FSA.
Health spending accounts are health savings accounts for people enrolled in plans with high deductibles, meaning you have to pay up to a certain point before the insurance company will start to cover your expenses. It works by letting you contribute pre-tax money from your paycheck that you can use for eligible health care expenses. And don’t worry—if you don’t use the money in your account one year, it will roll over to the next, and you can take it with you when you change jobs.
A flexible spending account (FSA) is good for people for both high- and low-deductible plans. You choose how much you think you’ll spend in a year, and put that pre-tax money in the account. But be careful! This money does not roll over to the next year, so don’t ballpark it. Sit down with a calculator and last year’s expenses so you have an accurate idea.
4. Make a Little Cash While You’re at It
Your company may ask you to fill out a survey called a “health risk assessment” that asks about things like your height, weight, blood pressure and exercise habits, and sometimes they’ll give you an incentive to do so in the form of cash, like $50. It’s (almost) free money, so take it!
5. Get some exercise. Health insurance companies like healthy enrollees, so many of them will offer reimbursements for things like your gym membership. Ask your benefits person about this program.
Alexa Von Tobel is the founder and CEO of LearnVest, the leading personal finance site for women.