|It's health plan open enrollment season, and you should consider making plan changes rather than remaining on auto-pilot.|
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the biggest asset you can bring to the process is your time. As in, actually taking the time to dig out your current benefits package and shopping around for alternative plans and, if possible, providers. "The first thing
One of the biggest factors in rising premiums? New federal laws mandating that children up to age 26 can be kept on as dependents on your plan. As such, these dependent plans in particular have gone up in cost, so you may want to look into getting them on separate plans to see if it's more cost-effective. "We've gone through a year of employers feeling the effects of older adult
Obviously when you're considering switching to a new health insurance plan, you'll want to look back at how much you've been paying -- not only your monthly premiums, but also how much you spent on co-pays. If you became a frequent flier at the doctor's office, for instance, you might consider switching to a plan with higher premiums and lower co-pays. But you should also be looking ahead. What if, for instance, you and your spouse are expecting a child in the coming year? "I would look to find out what is the lowest amount of out-of-pocket expenses
Health insurance premiums don't cover everything related to your health. There are co-pays, prescription drugs and other pharmacy items. Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts both provide tax advantaged ways to deal with such expenses -- you can put pretax dollars in the accounts, meaning you can reduce your overall tax liability. The difference is that the money in an FSA must be used by the end of the year; an HSA, which requires a high-deductible health plan, allows you to roll over the savings from year to year.
There's a simple way to tell if you're spending too much on health insurance: Look at the average premium cost and see what side you fall on. Last year the average individual paid $167 a month in premiums, says eHealthInsurance. And those numbers are, of course, going up at a rate eclipsing inflation and possibly any raises you may have received. "Health insurance costs are rising by 7.2%," McLean says. "If you just got a 3% raise but they're charging 7% more for health care, you're not keeping up." Consider a dependent care account
For some people, the main out-of-pocket health care costs aren't even for them, but a child or elderly parent in their care. A Dependent Care Account, offered by some employers, functions similarly to an FSA but is intended for the health care costs associated with, well, a dependent's care. And just like an FSA, it's a powerful tool for reducing your tax burden by setting aside money you're going to use anyway. >To submit a news tip, email: email@example.com. Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.