(BPT) - If you're like most people, there are a few times a year when you sit down to review your expenses - your cable bill, entertainment expenses and grocery receipts, for example - and try to figure out where you and your family can save money.
One item you should consider is your healthcare costs in 2017. Since the fall season marks the beginning of the annual open enrollment period for employees, now is the perfect time to sign up for a new health benefit plan or make changes to your current plan.
Offered as part of those benefits, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are two simple ways for people to save money in the New Year. An FSA, which is provided by your employer, allows you to save funds for eligible healthcare expenses. An HSA - which you can obtain on your own or through your employer - is a tax-advantaged savings account that allows you to set aside money to cover medical expenses throughout your lifetime.
A major advantage of both accounts is that individuals may use the full amount of their pre-tax dollars toward the care you and your family may need; employees who enroll in an FSA can contribute a portion of their salary pre-tax to pay for qualified medical or dependent care expenses, while an HSA helps individuals with qualifying high-deductible health plans pay for current and future medical expenses.
The number of HSA accounts has risen to 18.2 million in 2016, a 25 percent increase since 2015, according to Devenir Research. In addition, according to the 2016 Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account Consumer Research study commissioned by Visa and conducted by C+R Research, 90 percent of FSA users agree that saving money, since contributions are pre-tax, tops their list of reasons for having an FSA. In fact, 40 percent of FSA users claim they would cut back on their medical expenses if they didn't have an FSA.
The study also finds that an FSA with no carryover option represents an important barrier to adoption amongst employees, who fear losing their unused dollars at the end of the plan year. 60 percent of non-FSA users noted they would sign up for this benefit if their employer offered the option to carryover up to $500 of their unused health FSA balances remaining at the end of the plan year.
One of the most convenient ways to access funds in an HSA or FSA is with a Visa Healthcare Card, which allows employees to use funds in their HSA or FSA to pay for qualified medical expenses wherever Visa debit cards are accepted, making it easy to pay for expenses such as:
*Copays and deductibles
*Dentist visits: Cleanings, orthodontia, dentures
*Exams: Physicals, dermatologist
*Vision care, including exams, new glasses, LASIK
*Hearing exams and aids
*Medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors, thermometers
*Smoking cessation programs
For added convenience, most pharmacies, grocery stores and other retailers that sell healthcare products have the capability to distinguish between covered items and non-covered items when you pay for them, so you don't have to wonder whether something is covered or not.
By using a Visa Healthcare Card at these locations, you no longer have to pay out-of-pocket and then submit receipts to be reimbursed for your medical expenses, saving you time and money!
There's a reason why 78 percent of FSA users surveyed report having an FSA card and why 52 percent of HSA owners surveyed say they use a debit card linked to their HSA to pay for their medical expenses, as the 2016 Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account Consumer Research study commissioned by Visa and conducted by C+R Research found. As you review your options this open enrollment season, ask your employer if they offer an HSA or FSA with a Visa Healthcare Card to provide easy access to your funds. To learn more, visit www.visahealthcare.com.
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