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4 ways to save money and stay healthy.

When it comes to saving money, healthcare may be the last place you’d expect to cut costs. Treatment – whether expected or not – can strain your budget, especially if you have a high-deductible healthcare plan (HDHP). You may even shy away from scheduling annual check-ups if you’re confused by your plan and unsure of what things will cost. But, fortunately, by knowing your benefits and making the most of them, you can save money and feel confident about using your healthcare to practice preventive care.

  1. Know what’s in your plan.
    You may have signed up for a new health insurance plan and never dug into the details. Maybe you don’t know where you put the materials Human Resources gave you. Well, now is as good a time as any to dig them out and read up on your healthcare benefits. If you have questions, see if you can meet with someone in your organization.

    Make note of your deductible, co-payment, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. Not sure what those are or what they mean? Forbes has a helpful definition you might read. As you review the terms of your plan, consider whether it covers your needs and your family’s. If not, start to look for a policy that will be a good fit and make note of the date you’ll next be able to change plans.

  2. Make sure your providers are in your network.
    If you’ve moved or changed plans since your last appointment, double check your healthcare providers are still in-network. Seeing a provider in your insurance network saves you money on co-pays. You can probably search for in-network providers if your healthcare insurance company offers a search tool. It may allow you to search by specialty, location, price and other criteria.

  3. Use your HSA and FSA.
    Do you have a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA)? If yes, make sure you’re making use of the account. Depending on your plan, your employer may contribute money to your account that you can then spend on qualifying medical expenses. You can also add money to the account, which you don’t have to pay taxes on.

    When it comes time to cover a co-pay for a doctor’s office visit, you can pay with your HSA or FSA. The list of eligible expenses includes more than you may think, including: ambulance rides, supplies like crutches, contact lenses and more. A full list can be found on the IRS website.

    There are several differences between HSAs and FSAs, so pay close attention to the type you have and its terms. For instance, to qualify for an HSA, you need to have an HDHP. And some FSAs won’t allow you to carry over your account balance from one year to the next. If you have an FSA of that kind, plan to use the funds in your account by the end of the year. You might stock up on over-the-counter medications that you know you’ll use throughout the year (i.e. pain relievers, allergy medications, etc.) or schedule an annual check-up. For more information about using an HSA, read "How to save money on healthcare using an HSA."

  4. Participate in available wellness programs.
    Some health insurance plans include a wellness program with resources, discounts and health incentives. Check to see if a wellness program is available and review the benefits included. For instance, you may be able to be reimbursed for a gym membership, save on weight loss programs or access free classes. Some also offer free flu shots, which is an excellent way to prevent possible illness and save on doctor visits.

Health insurance plans can be confusing. But knowing your benefits not only makes good financial sense – it can help you stay healthier in the long-term. If you’re not sure where to start or how to understand something, reach out to someone at your organization or health insurance company to ask. Your financial advisor may also be able to help explain what’s included in your plan, too.

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