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Smart Decisions During Open Enrollment Can Save You Thousands

health insurance

In these tough economic times, millions of Americans are seeking new ways to reduce household spending. However, many are not taking simple steps to save money during open enrollment, which for many is the only time each year when changes can be made to their health benefits.

Changes made during open enrollment and throughout the year, like opening a flexible spending account (FSA), using mail-order prescription drug services or tapping into discounts on services like gym memberships, could help them save thousands. Unfortunately, a recent survey of insured adults revealed that three-fourths (75 percent) are not likely to make any changes to their health benefits options this year.

The survey from Plan for Your Health, a public education campaign from Aetna and the Financial Planning Association, found that 87 percent of respondents are more worried about their finances this year because of the struggling economy. However, the majority plan to spend less than one hour, or no time at all, reviewing their options during open enrollment.

"Many people think that medical expenses are beyond their control," says Tracey Baker, co-author of "Navigating Your Health Benefits For Dummies" and a certified financial planner professional. "However, taking the time to make wise decisions -- both at open enrollment and in daily life -- can result in substantial savings."

To help people identify opportunities to save money, Plan for Your Health developed a list of five things they should think about when evaluating their benefits this fall, available at www.PlanforYourHealth.com. By asking the following questions and carefully evaluating the answers, it is possible to make choices that could add up to thousands of dollars of savings.

* Am I being FSA-savvy? Take some time to identify your upcoming expenses and determine a realistic FSA contribution. Since money in an FSA is exempt from federal, most state, and payroll taxes, you'll reduce your taxable income -- and be able to use those pre-tax dollars for health care expenses. You also might look into other savings vehicles such as health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs) to see if they make sense for you and your family.

* Does it pay to be healthy? It could. Some plans completely or partially cover annual physicals and preventive screenings, as well as offer discounts on gym memberships. Some employers even offer "wellness incentives" that can total hundreds of dollars a year for employees who exercise regularly, eat healthfully or participate in stop-smoking programs, among other options.

* Can my benefits help me save time? Yes. Some insurers offer coverage for online consultations, which are often more convenient than in-person visits for routine health needs. Talk to your doctor or your insurer to find out how to take advantage of online visits. By using them reasonably, you could save gas money and valuable time. Many health insurers also are offering personal health records online that help you track spending, understand what preventive care you might need and even allow you to coordinate with your doctor's office.

* Can pharmacy mail-order help me? It can if you take regular prescriptions and sign up for a health plan with discounts on mail-order services for routine prescriptions. With some plans, you could get a three-month supply of your drug but only pay for a two-month prescription. So, if your family spends $50 per month on prescriptions, you could save about $200 per year.

* Should I go generic? The average brand-name prescription drug costs about $85 more than the average generic. If it's possible, switch from a brand-name to a generic and save more than $1,000 a year.

"For millions of Americans with tighter household budgets this year, fully understanding their options during open enrollment will help them make educated, potentially money-saving decisions," says Laurie Brubaker, head of Integrated Health and Productivity Solutions for Aetna. "By spending some time focusing on health benefits and related expenses, people can make important decisions that can result in savings this year and into the future."

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Categories: Health & Wellness, Just for me, Money & Work, Women's Health,

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