Healthcare checklist: 5 things to do before the year ends
How to maximize your coverage
At the end of the year, most people are thinking about holidays, not health insurance. But this is actually a key time to make sure you are getting the most value out of your health plan.
Why? Most insurance plans reset on Jan. 1, including all those sold through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, marketplaces. Many employer-sponsored health plans also renew on Jan. 1, which means you may want to review the following health care checklist before your plan renews.
Here are five things to include on your health care checklist this December.
1. Schedule procedures
Have you already met your deductible for the year? If so, now is the time to schedule any outstanding procedures you may want or need, such as mammograms, colonoscopies or blood work. While you still may have to pay coinsurance if you haven’t yet hit your out-of-pocket maximum, your insurance will cover more of these costs after hitting your deductible.
If you wait until January, your deductible will reset. Depending on your plan, you will likely have to pay out-of-pocket for any services you receive until you reach the threshold again.
2. Increase HSA contributions
In 2018, individuals can contribute $3,450 to Health Savings Accounts, and families can contribute $6,900. You might be thinking it’s too late to fund your account, because the year is almost over.
However, this isn’t the case. You can actually contribute to your HSA for 2018 until April 15, 2019. So if you can afford a small or moderate increase in your regular contributions, you may be able to fully fund the account by April by making that change now.
Why should you maximize your Health Savings Account contributions? HSAs are triple tax-advantaged — funds are contributed tax-free, the account grows tax-free and you can use the money to pay for qualified health care expenses tax-free, too.
3. Refill prescriptions before renewal
If your health insurance plan renews on Jan. 1, review whether you need to refill any prescriptions or have any regular appointments before New Year’s. It’s possible that there may be a delay in getting your new insurance cards or having the new information communicated to your health care provider.
If you take regular prescriptions or receive care often for a chronic or acute condition, you may want to schedule these appointments and refill your prescriptions before the year ends to avoid delays in care.
4. Check travel benefits before traveling
Traveling for the holidays? It’s a good idea to find out what your health insurance covers if you need care out-of-state. You can generally find this information in your plan’s explanation of benefits.
Some health plans do not provide any travel or “out-of-network” benefits — this means you typically cannot use your health insurance to cover a doctor’s visit or other services provided by a doctor outside of your insurance network.
Insurance companies are required to cover consumers out-of-network in the event of an emergency, but this can be complicated, as there are not clear regulations around what defines an emergency.
5. Confirm health insurance status for 2019
Did you sign up for new coverage or renew your plan for the coming year? If not, you may need to consider short-term coverage or other options. For most health plans, including those on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and most workplace plans, you cannot sign up for coverage outside of the open enrollment period without experiencing a qualifying event, such as having a baby or getting married.
If you missed these deadlines, you could consider a short-term plan. These plans don’t provide as robust coverage as traditional health plans, but they may cover some costs in the event that you experience an acute health care event such as a hospitalization.
Before the year ends, it may be a good idea to review these items, which can help consumers avoid delays in care or healthcare surprises in the new year.
This column was originally published in the The Tennessean.
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