Financial Fitness

Why the 2017 Open Enrollment period deserves your full attention

Open Enrollment

You may be using a range of smart techniques to save money: turning off the lights and lowering the thermostat while you’re away from home; making holiday gifts for family and friends instead of buying them; or picking up books, movies, and music from the library instead of purchasing them.

As a financially conscious individual, you have probably adopted some of these cost-saving techniques. But did you realize the potential advantages Open Enrollment can provide?

We’re not just talking about financial savings, but how Open Enrollment can benefit the health and well-being of you and your family as well.

What is Open Enrollment?

Open Enrollment is the annual window in which you can enroll in, switch, or get subsidies on a health care plan in the United States. Open Enrollment 2017 begins on November 1st, 2016 and closes on January 31st, 2017. Check with your insurance providers to find out when your open enrollment period starts and ends.

Here are a few reasons to take Open Enrollment 2017 seriously, if you haven’t in the past, and how having a plan and anticipating your healthcare needs can pad more than your wallet.

You can reduce taxes owed to the government

An FSA (Flexible Spending Account) and HSA (Health Savings Account) allow you to set aside money at the beginning of the year, then use it for certain out-of-pocket medical expenses without federal tax penalty.

These accounts can be used for prescription medicine, medical equipment like crutches or casts, dental work, glasses or contacts, physical exams, etc. They may even cover alternative treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic. Here are two simple tips for getting the most out of them.

  • Tip #1: if you take prescriptions and expect to continue taking them, add up how much you spent on them last year and apply a similar amount to your plan for next year. This will allow you to save on the taxes you would have spent on that money.
  • Tip #2: If you take prescriptions, your plan may allow you to order 3 months at a time for a reduced co-pay. This will save you a trip to the pharmacy too!

**NOTE: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as legal tax advice. Speak with a tax professional before taking action to learn what would work best for your situation.**

Reduce your monthly premium expenses

Your insurance plan may have increased costs. Or your lifestyle has changed and you no longer need the coverage you had last year. While most people simply roll over the previous year’s coverage, there are often cheaper plans out there that can also fit your needs.

Protect your health

Things change from year to year. The doctor you have built a trusting relationship with may no longer be in your network. You may need to calculate your plan’s out-of-network charges or switch plans altogether. The prescription medication you take regularly may no longer be covered under your current plan.

Open Enrollment is the time to alter your budget or change your plan. Better to be prepared for these than see a big surprise bill if your plan changes.

Another benefit to exploring Open Enrollment is that it gets you thinking about next year. Even if things are great right now, it helps to anticipate what could happen.

Do you have any dental or medical work scheduled? Was a family member diagnosed with a health condition that will require new medication? Did you want to explore an alternative treatment like acupuncture for your aches and pains?

If you aren’t used to examining open enrollment, set aside 30 minutes on your calendar to explore your options. Check with your insurance providers to find out when your Open Enrollment period starts and ends.

Posted by: Jacob Schnee

About the author: Jacob joined Unitus Community Credit Union as Marketing Specialist in 2015 after escaping his native New York City and spending a one-year layover in Ann Arbor, MI. His life’s work is to remove the cheese from marketing and advertising and he is thrilled that Unitus shares his passion. When not creating content for conscious consumption he is viewing, playing, or reading and writing about basketball. He has also been known to enjoy meditation, yoga, poetry, hiking, cooking and doing uncanny impressions.

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