December can be an expensive month. Between the holiday shopping, travel expenses, gatherings and other festivities, you’re demanding a lot from your budget. End-of-the year health care costs are probably the furthest thing from your mind. If you’ve been putting off getting a comprehensive eye exam or buying a new pair of glasses, a defined contribution health plan can make your eye care costs more affordable.
What’s the difference between traditional health plans and defined contribution plans? A traditional health plan offers a clearly outlined set of health benefits that is paid for by either you or your employer. As an employee, the amount you pay for these health benefits is deducted from your paycheck each pay period. Contribution plans, on the other hand, are more customizable, offering a menu of benefits for you to choose from based on your health care needs. According to Madeleine Vessel of AllAboutVision.com, “vision benefits, including at least partial payments for eye exams and prescription eyewear, often are listed among your choices in a defined contribution plan.” These types of plans also save you money on income taxes, since fees associated with them are withdrawn as pre-tax deductions from your paycheck.
There are three types of defined contribution plans that may offer vision benefits: flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), and health savings accounts (HSAs). Employers can offer any one of these plans and may even offer more than one to their employees. These plans do have some important differences, though. For example, if you buy your own insurance and you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you are only eligible for an HSA. Carryover rules, or rollovers, are also worth taking into consideration.
Rollovers pertain particularly to FSAs. As of 2018, the maximum allowable contribution deposited in an FSA account is $2,650 pre-tax dollars. If your healthcare spending is not carefully planned throughout the year, you may end up forfeiting those funds. In other words, if you don’t use it, you lose it. To avoid losing those funds, employers can choose to offer one of two options to their employees. They can either allow account holders to roll over as much as $500 to the following year, or give employees an additional two and a half months to use those funds.
If you’re considering using a defined contribution plan for your health care costs, it’s worth taking the time to compare them in order to find out which plan may be the best fit for you. Talk with your benefits administrator or human resources department to find out which plan is available to you through your employer, what benefits that plan provides and any important deadlines.
Don’t wait until the clock strikes midnight to invest in your eye health. Schedule your comprehensive eye exam today, and let Eyewear By Giorgio style you for the new year.