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Giving Your Health Benefits a Checkup

A national survey found that the majority of women (59%) spend less than 2 hours learning about their health insurance options.

As a consumer, you make more and more informed decisions on planning for the future. Similar to the way in which you make purchasing decisions — looking at all options and evaluating your preference — Americans are now empowered to take a more active role in managing their health and financial benefits.

To make the most of your benefitbenefit
The term "benefit" may refer in general to a health plan (your "benefits"), specifically define the ... more
choices and options, you need the right tools, information and support to make well-informed decisions.

Fast facts

Remember these fast facts to make sure your health and financial benefits are in order:

  • Review the open enrollmentopen enrollment
    A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
    packet:
    Typically from October to December, employees are given the opportunity to look over changes that the employer has made to the benefits package. This time also offers a chance for you to assess your latest benefits needs. If you're getting married or starting a family, those needs may be different from the same time last year. Making the most of the benefits your employer offers can be the equivalent of getting a raise that increases your salary by thousands of dollars.
  • Consider flexible spending accountsflexible spending accounts
    A FSA is an account tied to an employer-sponsored health plan. It can be used to pay for medical exp... more
    :
    Flexible Spending AccountsFlexible Spending Accounts
    A FSA is an account tied to an employer-sponsored health plan. It can be used to pay for medical exp... more
    (FSAs) allow employees to use pretax dollars to pay for qualifying health care costs. Costs might include paying deductibles and copays, but might also cover expenses like dental costs, daycare, prescription drugsprescription drugs
    Medicine that requires a doctor's permission to buy. These drugs are different from over-the-counter... more
    , alternative therapy (such as massage) and, now, even some over-the-counter medicines.
  • Check in on your 401(k)401(k)
    A 401(k) is a type of personal pension plan offered by an employer. It provides tax advantages on mo... more
    :
    In most circumstances, you won't have to wait for Open EnrollmentOpen Enrollment
    A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
    to make adjustments to your 401(k)401(k)
    A 401(k) is a type of personal pension plan offered by an employer. It provides tax advantages on mo... more
    plan. However, Open EnrollmentOpen Enrollment
    A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
    season is a great time for an annual review of your 401(k)401(k)
    A 401(k) is a type of personal pension plan offered by an employer. It provides tax advantages on mo... more
    plan along with your assessment of your other employee benefits — it's a good time for that annual checkup.

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Helpful hints

To make educated decisions on your health benefits and to know how those decisions may affect your overall financial plan, it is important to understand the latest industry trends.

Some helpful hints:

  • Health Savings AccountsHealth Savings Accounts
    This savings account allows people to pay current health care costs or save for future expenses. To ... more
    (HSAs):
    Health Savings AccountsHealth Savings Accounts
    This savings account allows people to pay current health care costs or save for future expenses. To ... more
    are a significant new option of consumer-directed plans that provide consumers with a high-deductible health planhigh-deductible health plan
    A health benefits plan that meets the deductible and other benefit requirements to permit a covered ... more
    with another opportunity to better plan for and fund their current and retiree health care expenses. HSAs offer a number of advantages to consumers — they are a tax-advantaged account where earnings grow tax-free and distributions for qualified medical expenses are tax-free. The employer, the individual or both can contribute to HSA funds. In addition, HSA funds can be carried over from year to year, are transferable from job to job, can be used into retirement and must be used with a high-deductible health planhigh-deductible health plan
    A health benefits plan that meets the deductible and other benefit requirements to permit a covered ... more
    . Check out Aetna's HSA calculator to find out more about the savings opportunities and tax advantages an HSA could provide for you.
  • Health Reimbursement ArrangementsHealth Reimbursement Arrangements
    This is an employer-paid account for employees and retirees. The funds are generally available to pa... more
    (HRAs):
    Health Reimbursement ArrangementsHealth Reimbursement Arrangements
    This is an employer-paid account for employees and retirees. The funds are generally available to pa... more
    , or employer-funded health benefits accounts, offer another option for consumers who are interested in having the flexibility of choosing how to manage their health care dollars. Benefits of these plans include reimbursements that are not taxable income, the ability to roll over unused dollars and the ability to save money for future health care needs, including retirement expenses.
  • Flexible Spending AccountsFlexible Spending Accounts
    A FSA is an account tied to an employer-sponsored health plan. It can be used to pay for medical exp... more
    (FSAs):
    Flexible Spending AccountsFlexible Spending Accounts
    A FSA is an account tied to an employer-sponsored health plan. It can be used to pay for medical exp... more
    , normally offered by employers, are another tool for consumers to use in their health care planning. By contributing to an FSA, consumers are exempt from paying taxes on contributions, thus reducing taxable income, while at the same time paying for medical expenses they expect to encounter during the year. Unlike HSAs or HRAs, FSAs are not transferable from job to job and they are subject to a "use it or lose it" provision, meaning that the funds must be used in the year they are accrued.

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