Review Your Health Care Benefits Prior to Year-end

As the end of the year approaches, many of us are thinking about health insurance; for example, most employers open up enrollment to health care benefits. Newer employees can sign up, and other employees can change benefits.

Now’s the perfect time to review options, reduce costs or add coverage. But many put off taking action because of the volume of paperwork and confusing terminology.

It’s particularly important to be proactive this year, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be mostly implemented in 2014. Here are three steps that may help simplify your review process:

Learn the language: There are many terms exclusive to health insurance that have different meanings in other contexts. Online searches are great, but only visit reputable websites.

Update: This is the time to make necessary alterations if you’ve experienced a major life change, including marriage, divorce, having children, relocating or the death of a spouse.

Even if nothing has changed, review your coverage. Employers may have increased deductibles, removed options or be offering new plans. If you aren’t aware of any changes, ask.

Consider Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Many employers offer HSAs. These are good options for young, healthy single employees, and also may be more attractive than Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) which have changed under the ACA. With an HSA, you contribute from your paycheck, pre-tax, to pay for health expenses such as co-pays and prescriptions. Unlike FSAs, money unspent in an HSA accumulates and earns interest.