THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Max out your health insurance now

Next year, your plan's benefits may not be as generous as they are now. Here's some steps to take before 2010.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- With the year rolling to a close, make sure you don't leave ANY health-insurance money on the table. Here's how to cash in now.

1. Schedule your appointments now

Chances are, your health care insurance this year is a whole lot more generous than your options next year. Check to see if you've hit your deductible and then take advantage of the remaining weeks to get your doctors appointments in. Think ahead to what health needs you might have in the future -- maybe you want an extra set of glasses or maybe you want to check out that nagging clicking in your jaw.

Now is the time to maximize your health care policy. And while you're at the doctors -- think about asking for an extra refill on medicine or some samples to take home.

2. Max out your FSA

If you have a flexible spending account, make sure you check the balance. A flexible spending account lets you set aside pretax money to use on health-related expenses. It usually has to be used by the end of the year, otherwise, the leftover money vanishes. But a lot of employers will give you a grace period so your money may be accessible until March 15.

Make sure you use the money in the account before it vanishes. You can use your FSA for over the counter medicine; massage therapy (if it's used as a treatment for a medical condition), first aid kits; sunscreen over 30 SPF and dancing sessions if it's used as a treatment. To get a more complete list of eligible expenses, go to wageworks.com -- click on participants and employees and look for eligible expenses.

3. Get the free stuff

Cigna Insurance company recently took a sampling of 10 large employers and on average only half of employees took advantage of free preventive checkups and low-cost screenings.

Many times you can get free services like high cholesterol screening, prostate cancer screening or mammograms. You may also be entitled to one or two free dentals cleanings a year through your dental plan.

So check your policy and make sure you have taken advantage of all of these procedures before 2010 begins. What's free this year, may not be free next year.

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

Talkback: How are you making the most of your health insurance? To top of page

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