Use up your FSA: 5 year-end health care moves

@Money November 30, 2011: 10:15 AM ET

(MONEY Magazine) -- Don't forget to empty out your flexible spending account and get your medical checkups before the new year. You'll cut next year's health care costs.

Empty your FSA

Flexible spending accounts often allow you to put up to $5,000 pretax a year aside to cover medical care. About half of companies require you to use up the funds by Dec. 31. (The rest give you a grace period until March 15, according to WageWorks.)

So get new glasses, stock up on contact lens solution or get your teeth cleaned.

Starting this year, over-the-counter meds, such as allergy or heartburn relief pills, qualify for FSA reimbursement only if you have a prescription from your doctor.

Get yourself checked out

As part of the 2010 health reform law, insurers must pick up the full tab on in-network preventive care services, which might include a yearly mammogram, colonoscopy, flu shot, or osteoporosis screening. So book your appointments now.

Not sure what you qualify for?

You can get a list of the preventive services your insurer will cover for you based on your age, gender, health status and family history at

Take advantage of a spent deductible

If you or a member of your family has already hit your insurance deductible, try to cram in the visits before Jan. 1 to take care of that aching foot, dry skin patch, or other nagging malady you've been ignoring.

Send The Help Desk your health insurance questions.

Do it now and you'll owe only the co-insurance or co-pay; wait until the new year, and you'll have to cough up another deductible (which most people don't hit every year) before your insurance coverage kicks in.

Besides, a small ache or pain might become a bigger problem by then.

Boost your medical tax break

Has your family racked up significant health care bills this year? Total up the tab. Medical expenses above a certain amount (usually 7.5% of your adjusted gross income) are generally deductible, assuming you itemize.

If you've crossed the threshold, or are close to it, try to shift upcoming health expenses, such as dental work or new prescription sunglasses, into this year, says Barbara Weltman, contributing editor to J.K. Lasser's "Your Income Tax."

Don't miss incentives

Toward the end of the year many large employers offer rewards such as cash, gift cards or a premium discount to employees who agree to have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and fill out a health risk assessment.

Often you need to act within six weeks of the offer to grab the reward, says Jay Savan of benefit consultant Towers Watson. So fill the forms out now, and set yourself up for a richer New Year.  To top of page

Help! We need a makeover
Young dad, $15,000 in credit card debt
Readers' Choice

Carlos Rodriguez is trying to rid himself of $15,000 in credit card debt, while paying his mortgage and saving for his son's college education.

$400,000 portfolio, too many holdings
Readers' Choice

Susan Carson and Laura DeLallo make $225,000 and have half a million in retirement savings, but their sprawling portfolios is proving hard to manage.

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
Rate data provided
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
  • -->

    Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.