How to Make Wise Choices About 2011 Benefits

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"If this change is going to affect you a lot then I would suggest lowering your contribution so you don't lose it at the end of the year. Remember, with FSA's, you lose any money left in your account at the end of the year," Hobson said.

Also, how much you can contribute depends upon your plan. Currently, there's a maximum of $5,000. That amount will to decrease to a maximum of $2,500 in 2013.

If you are considering an eligible procedure that will cost more than $2,500, it might be a good idea to schedule it in the next two years before the maximum goes down.

Health Savings Accounts

More employers are promoting high deductible insurance plans that are included with health savings accounts (HSAs).

In 2011, about 61 percent of employers expect to offer this type of plan (also known as consumer-driven health plans).

Hobson said these plans are a good choice because they have much lower premiums.

"You can save about 40 percent over traditional plans. In order to participate in an HSA, you have to be enrolled in a high deductible plan (approximately $1,200 or higher)," she said.

Health savings accounts let you set aside $3,050 as an individual or $6,150 as a couple in pre-tax savings account.

The money in your HSA earns interest or invested in funds like an individual retirement account (IRA).

You can withdraw your money tax-free if you use them for medical expenses like deductibles.

One advantage is that if you don't use the balance, then you don't lose it and it rolls forward to the next year.

However, a higher deductible means you pay higher out-of-pocket costs up front.

An HSA cannot be used for child care expenses, only medical expenses. The accounts will no longer cover OTC drugs in 2011.

Hobson recommends talking to your human resources department to see if it is beneficial to have a flexible spending account and a health savings account.

Web Extra Tips From Mellody Hobson

Make sure you get regular check-ups. The health care reform act now eliminates co-pays for preventative care services when you use an in-network doctor. This could help you catch health problems early that otherwise may cost you much more later.

Many companies also use open enrollment time to offer additional disability coverage, long-term care coverage, and additional life insurance. If you are considering purchasing these policies, your employer may offer you the best rates possible, so it is definitely worth discussing with your Human Resources department.

Once you are enrolled in a health care plan consider using generic versions of popular drugs when possible. This could save you hundreds of dollars a year. Your health care plan administrator, pharmacist, or primary care physician can discuss your options with you.

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