As another New Year approaches, it’s time to talk about something that many folks overlook: their dental benefits and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Believe it or not, every year, millions of people are missing out on their dental dollars. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, a mere 2.8% of people with PPO dental plans actually make the most of their annual maximum benefits. To top it off, many of us have FSAs, which can help cover dental and medical expenses with pre-tax money.
So, if you’re paying into a dental benefits plan or have an FSA, listen up! Your benefits are likely to expire on December 31, and we wouldn’t want your hard-earned money to go down the drain. Here’s a simple breakdown of what these benefits are, when they expire, and some tips on how to squeeze every drop of value out of them.
Dental Benefit Plans
Now, most of us get our dental benefits through our jobs, but you can also find individual plans through Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act. It’s important to remember that when you buy a plan, both you and your employer are chipping in some upfront dollars. Those dollars go to waste if you don’t put your dental benefits to use.
When You Need to Use Them By
For most dental plans, the clock stops on December 31. That means any unused benefits won’t roll over into the New Year. However, some plans may follow different schedules, so it’s wise to check your plan document or chat with your employer to be absolutely sure.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Plan
The name of the game here is to use your benefits before they vanish into thin air.
Prevention is the name of the game, and it’s not just good for your health; it’s friendly on your wallet too. Most plans will cover 100% of preventive visits, so if you haven’t had one yet, now’s a good time to schedule it. Plan ahead and start thinking about your dental needs early. During a summer or fall dental visit, have a chat with your dentist about what treatments you might need before the year-end. Get those appointments locked in before the holiday craziness kicks in. Once you’ve figured out your dental needs, work with your dentist and benefits provider to figure out what’s covered. Your dentist’s office can often help with this, or you can call the number on your ID card or check their website for details.
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
Think of an FSA as your secret stash of pre-tax cash for healthcare expenses. You set it up through your employer during open enrollment, and they deduct a bit from each paycheck to fund it. These accounts generally cover stuff that keeps your pearly whites healthy, like cleanings, dental braces for medical reasons, co-pays, dentures, and more. Some even work like debit cards for easy spending on medical and dental goodies.
When You Need to Use Them By
The typical rule is to spend the money in your FSA within the plan year, usually by December 31. But some employers offer options that give you a bit more time:
- A grace period of up to 2½ extra months to use your FSA funds.
- Carrying over up to $500 per year to use in the following year.
Remember, though, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So, reach out to your employer or FSA administrator to find out which rules apply to your plan.
Tips for Making the Most of Your FSA
Don’t stuff your FSA with more money than you’ll spend on dental and healthcare in a year. Plan wisely.
Just like with dental benefits, chat with your dentist during regular appointments in the summer or fall to see if you have any dental needs or procedures on the horizon. You might be able to use your FSA to cover these costs or co-pays and co-insurance.
Contact your FSA administrator for a list of what’s covered (usually called eligible expenses). Keep in mind that most FSAs won’t cover cosmetic treatments like whitening, veneers, or cosmetic braces.
Don’t procrastinate when it comes to making those dental appointments. The sooner you schedule, the better chance you have of using your FSA dollars in time.
So, there you have it – a straightforward guide to getting the most out of your dental benefits and FSAs. Don’t let your money slip through the cracks; put those benefits to good use and keep your smile shining all year long!