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Now Is The Time To Use Your Health Insurance

There are only 22 days until Christmas and 29 days until New Year’s Day 2016. With the flurry of the holidays (shopping, cooking and seasonal parties) one can get swept up with the hustle and bustle December brings. But there are bigger concerns that affect your health and wellbeing to also take into consideration – like using your health insurance before the year ends.

There are many deadlines that coincide with your health plan, and failing to take advantage of the benefits can be costly mistake. Here are steps you can take to get the most from your health insurance coverage before you sing Auld Lang Syne:

Schedule an appointment now

Doctors can book out weeks in advance, so if you need to see your primary care physician or a specialist, get on the phone today and get your appointment scheduled before the end of the year. If you plan to have big healthcare expenses in 2016 (planned surgery or having a baby) you can also wait until early 2016 to start working towards your medical deductible limit. It’s your choice.

Check your health savings account balance

If you have a qualifying high deductible health insurance plan, automatically depositing money into a health savings account can provide surprise surplus by year-end. While you do not need to use your health savings account dollars before year end, health savings accounts can greatly relieve healthcare expenses, especially during the holidays.

Use your flexible spending account dollars

If you have a flexible spending account (also known as an FSA), check to see if there were any prescriptions, dental care or other out-of-pocket healthcare expenses you haven’t submitted for reimbursement. Any money taken out of your paycheck before taxes and deposited into an FSA can help you pay for qualifying health expenses you have received or plan to get during the month of December. You are allowed to contribute $2,550 into a flexible spending account each year. However, know the rules of your FSA. Some FSAs allow you to roll some of your unused dollars over into the following year. Some accounts give you you a grace period to spend that money after the start of the New Year, but many have “use it or lose it” policies. If you find that spending up your flexible account dollars is a challenge each year, you might be better off with a health savings account.

Almost hit your deductible? Get big ticket items done before Dec. 31.

If you are just hundreds of dollars away from reaching your medical deductible, getting all of your expensive procedures and treatments in before New Year’s can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. If you cannot get an appointment with your doctor or specialist before year end, asked to be placed on a waiting list to fill last minute cancellations.

It’s never too late to schedule preventive care

The Affordable Care Act mandates health insurance policies must cover preventive health services free of charge. Screenings and wellness doctor visits can ensure you are healthy through the holidays. If something abnormal is found during one of your office visits, you might still have time to get additional appointments scheduled before the end of the year.

Shop for a new health insurance plan

Whether you buy your own health insurance or receive health insurance benefits through your employer, now is the time to re-evaluate your health coverage and select a plan that will match your healthcare lifestyle in 2016. First, take into consideration how much healthcare you have used in 2015, analyze if it was a typical or atypical year, and then look ahead to the healthcare you plan to use in 2016. Keep in mind the average adult sees a doctor three times a year, and the average child four times a year. And don’t delay selecting a plan. The open enrollment deadline for January 1, 2016 coverage is December 15. Confused when comparing health insurance plans? Check out this handy health insurance FAQ.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Healthcare, Inc. and HealthCare.com.

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Colleen McGuire: Colleen McGuire is an independent consultant who has spent most of her career writing about healthcare and the health insurance industry. For fun she blogs, travels and takes a lot of pictures along the way.

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