Review Your Health Care Benefits Prior to Year-end
As the end of the year approaches, many of us are thinking about health insurance; for example, most employers open up enrollment to health care benefits. Newer employees can sign up, and other employees can change benefits.
Now’s the perfect time to review options, reduce costs or add coverage. But many put off taking action because of the volume of paperwork and confusing terminology.
It’s particularly important to be proactive this year, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be mostly implemented in 2014. Here are three steps that may help simplify your review process:
Learn the language: There are many terms exclusive to health insurance that have different meanings in other contexts. Online searches are great, but only visit reputable websites.
Update: This is the time to make necessary alterations if you’ve experienced a major life change, including marriage, divorce, having children, relocating or the death of a spouse.
Even if nothing has changed, review your coverage. Employers may have increased deductibles, removed options or be offering new plans. If you aren’t aware of any changes, ask.
Consider Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Many employers offer HSAs. These are good options for young, healthy single employees, and also may be more attractive than Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) which have changed under the ACA. With an HSA, you contribute from your paycheck, pre-tax, to pay for health expenses such as co-pays and prescriptions. Unlike FSAs, money unspent in an HSA accumulates and earns interest.
Travel Apps Designed for Wherever Your Road Takes You
Whether we’re alone, or on a family vacation, traveling can present all sorts of challenges. Even the best-laid plans go awry, but thanks to our smartphones, we’re always in a position to handle wherever the road takes us, providing, of course, our phones are equipped with the proper applications.
There are apps for everything today, and a plethora of them are focused on travel. Here are some free travel apps to download before you take off:
For the financial whiz
Mint (www.mint.com) holds all of your financial information – from account balances to transactions to investments. Whether you’re in a cab, or in line at Disneyland, you’ll be able to monitor your finances. Mint also allows you to transfer money within the app and is highly secure.
Oanda Currency Converter (www.oanda.com/currency/converter) can help you determine the value of any product in 190 currencies. This app certainly comes in handy, but makes it almost too easy to spend abroad.
For the practical tripper
There never seems to be a bathroom around when you need it…or is there? The SitOrSquat app (www.sitorsquat.com) lists 95,000 bathrooms worldwide, so you can always find one close to you. It includes ratings, so you’ll know whether to sit, squat or keep walking.
Of course, every app uses data, and that means roaming fees. Onavo (www.onavo.com) compresses your downloaded data usage, so that you use less and get more from it. Onavo backs up to a cloud-based technology and provides monthly usage reports.
Total Tech Hotels: The Future is Now
Walking into some hotels can feel like a trip to the future; high-tech hotels are popping up across the globe, offering guests some futuristic technological amenities. And they seem to keep them coming back.
They’re called total-tech hotels or resorts, and their offerings go far beyond cable TV or iPod docking stations.
Imagine a mirror television where you can fix your hair and tune in to the news? Or robots that take your luggage? Or a room key that permits you to enter by scanning your iris? And then there’s the in-room oxygen system that helps guests in a Colorado hotel acclimatize to altitude changes.
Even if you’re not a techie, you can still enjoy visiting a total-tech hotel. They make it easy: Tech amenities are user-friendly and intuitive.
Ensure College Students Have Health Coverage
Going to college is exciting for both “traditional” students – typically age 24 or under – and “non-traditional” students, such as graduate or international students, or those over 24.
It has its challenges, however, including illnesses and injuries. And finding health insurance at any age can be difficult. Even more so, in 2014, when everyone will be required to carry coverage according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Options for traditional students include:
Parents’ health insurance: The ACA permits children to remain on parents’ policies until age 26. This is the best option, but check with providers for limitations. For example, if a student is going to school out of state, coverage may be affected, and the result could be higher co-pays and deductibles and limited availability of in-network care providers.
College health insurance: Many colleges and universities offer student health insurance plans. Prices and coverage options vary by state and school. If a student is able to choose between a parent’s plan and a college plan, college plans are worth considering.
Individual health insurance: If neither of these options will work for your student, individual plans can be purchased from national providers. However, this is the most expensive option, and many may consider it a last resort.
Non-traditional students – including graduate and international students – usually have the same options unless they’re older than 26. Graduate schools often offer plans comparable to traditional student health plans, and individual plans are available.
For students traveling abroad, coverage may become limited outside of a certain region, so student travel health insurance may be the only option. School-sponsored trips may offer coverage, and some providers will tailor coverage to travel plans. Adding emergency medical evacuation coverage and 24-7 help lines are definitely recommended.
When you’re a college student, finding health insurance isn’t difficult if you know where to look. As for paying tuition bills? Well, that’s another story.