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Affordable Care Act

Savvy open enrollment choices could save you thousands of dollars


(USA Today) – Every fall, open enrollment season means complicated forms to read and big decisions to make about insurance and other benefits offered at your job.

You may find the process a headache, but taking the time to evaluate your choices could save you thousands of dollars.

Three out of five (60 percent) workers say their employer offers an open enrollment period for benefits, according to a recent Nationwide Financial consumer survey. Workers typically can switch health care plans, add disability or life insurance, or sign up for other benefits.

In many cases, this is the only time to make changes until the next open enrollment period in 2019 unless you have a major life change, like getting married or having a child. So, it’s important to act.

“Don’t succumb to inertia,” says Daniel Galli, a certified financial planner in Norwell, Massachusetts. “Avoid just letting last year’s choices become this year’s choices without giving it some review and thought.”

To help offset rising health care costs, many companies are offering high-deductible plans coupled with health spending accounts (or HSAs) along with higher premium, low-deductible plans.

For healthy, young workers, the high-deductible plan with HSA is a favorite among financial experts. Withdrawals are tax-free on qualified medical expenses, and any earned interest is tax-deferred or tax-free if used for medical costs. Any money not used in a calendar year is rolled over to the next. Contributions to HSAs are also tax deductible, which can spell major savings come tax time.

“If a young healthy couple puts in the max contribution – $6,900 – and it’s taxed at 30 percent, that’s $2,000 they saved,” says Darin Shebesta, vice president of Jackson Roskelley Wealth Advisors in Scottsdale, Arizona.

If you or a family member has developed a chronic condition or you’re older, the better bet may be a low-deductible plan. While your premium is higher every month, your medical expenses will likely be, too.  A lower deductible will curb how much you ultimately pay out-of-pocket.

Combine a low-deductible play with a flexible spending account, or FSA. Contribute pre-tax dollars to this account to pay qualified medical expenses during the year. Estimate carefully: Any leftover money you lose at the end of the year.

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