Here are 4 ways to take advantage of your health-care expenses before the end of the year

Health-care expenses can often be unpredictable and unwelcome.

However, depending on your situation, there may be strategies you can employ that make those outlays a bit less financially painful.

Because some of them involve taxes, experts say they shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. In other words, you may want to consult a professional so you know the impact any moves you make would have on other aspects of your finances.

Here are four things that may ease some of the sting of your 2022 medical costs.

1. Take advantage of reaching your deductible

If you’ve met your plan’s deductible, you may be able to pay less for qualifying health-care services before the end of the year than you would after the deductible resets Jan. 1.

Your deductible is how much you have to pay for your medical costs (excluding premiums and typically copays or coinsurance) before your plan starts paying at least some of your expenses.

Deductibles can vary greatly among health insurance options and can be thousands of dollars, depending on the specifics of the plan. The 2021 average among employer-based plans was $2,004 for individuals and $3,868 for families, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Once you’ve met your plan’s deductible, you may or may not face copays or coinsurance — it depends on your plan’s out-of-pocket maximum, which may be higher. But either way, as long as the service qualifies for coverage, the cost would be less than it was before you reached your deductible.

“Go get everything done you can before the year ends,” said certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida. McClanahan is also a medical doctor.

2. Don’t neglect FSA balances

If you have a health flexible spending account — which lets you save pretax money to use on qualified medical expenses — your contributions come with a use-it-or-lose-it provision when the year ends. 

“Make sure you use your FSA dollars if you have money set to disappear,” McClanahan said.

Some employers provide either a grace period of up to 2.5 extra months to spend your balance on eligible costs or allow you to carry over a set amount, up to $570 this year, so it’s worth finding out what your employer’s rules are.

If you need to use the money before Dec. 31, there are many ways you can spend it: doctor and dentist appointments, prescription drugs and other health-care services such as acupuncture and addiction treatment.

Additionally, over-the-counter drugs qualify, as do menstrual care products and other items that became pertinent in the pandemic such as at-home Covid tests, masks and hand sanitizer.

Continue reading at CNBC.


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