3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Health Benefits Now--and in 2012
My brother-in-law, an orthopedic surgeon in New Hampshire, tells me that he's expecting some long nights at the hospital and the clinic this month. His appointment book is jam-packed with patients trying squeeze every last benefit from their health insurance plans before the new year starts. That inspired me to call Maura Carley, president and CEO of Healthcare Navigation
, an advocacy group that guides people through the Byzantine rules of their health insurance plans. I asked her to help me draw up a quick to-do list for this month. Here's her advice:
Read more:Dr. Oz's ultimate health checklist, including the medical tests you need
- If your health plan has a January 1 renewal, check the balance in your Flexible Spending Account, and then use the remaining funds to stock up on reimbursable items like eyeglasses, a bite guard for sleeping, orthotics, contact lens solution, and cold medicine, because whatever you don't use, you lose. One thing to note: "You'll need a prescription in order to get reimbursed for over-the-counter items," she says.
- During open enrollment, ask your HR rep what changes you should expect in 2012, because Carley says that many insurance plans are increasing contribution levels, deductibles, coinsurance and co-pays next year. If you've already had your open enrollment meetings, it might not be a bad idea to review the paperwork to see how the changes will affect your budget.
- If you’ve met your annual deductible and you don't anticipate many expensive services next year, consider scheduling almost-due appointments like a Pap smear, a dental cleaning, a dermatologist check-up or an extra session with your therapist. Doctors like my brother-in-law are prepared for your call.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.