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Open season for health-care options

Stethoscope lying on money

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: And if the term "AMT" wasn't enough to give you a post-Halloween fright, these words might: open enrollment.

Yes, 'tis the season when most large companies give their workers a chance to switch health care plans.

We spoke with Tom Billet for tips on navigating those choices. He's with the corporate consultancy Watson Wyatt.


Tip number one: keep an open mind.

Tom Billet: Well, one of the general things I advise people is don't choose the same plan that they chose last year just because it worked for them then. They may have a new set of choices and very likely the cost of those choices changes as well.

One option that may be new for some workers this year is something called an "HSA", Health Savings Account. That's where you get a cheap insurance plan, then put aside pre-tax dollars to pay for high deductibles. Tom says HSAs might be the right choice for health young workers or for the wealthy. As for the rest of us...

Billet: Well, it's always important to understand, you know, what your health status is and those of your family and how much you spend on health care in a given year. Typically companies or your insurance carrier would have that information if you want to look at it.

And finally, Tom's a big booster of flex spending plans, even though if you don't use 'em, you lose 'em for that benefit year.

Billet: But I always encourage people to think about what they might spend on health care during the year and then be conservative: only put in half. Depending on what tax bracket you're in, every dollar that goes in to that account that you spend on medical care is a 40 percent savings.

And savings can only be good for your health.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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