Admiral Charles R. Brown is lowered from a helicopter onto a submarine, during a 1956 inspection of a Mediterranean fleet.
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By Katherine Hobson
December 19, 2013

1. See a doctor if you’ve met your deductible …

The average deductible has nearly doubled since 2006, reaching $1,135 in 2013, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If you’ve hit yours this year or you’re close, schedule elective procedures ASAP, while your insurer will pick up most of the tab. If not, push off appointments until 2014, when the costs can be applied to your presumably even larger deductible.

“It’s smart to consider what your health needs are,” says Tracy Watts, senior partner at Mercer.

2. … or a dentist if you are below the max

Dental plans typically pay out no more than $1,500 to $2,000 a year, according to the National Association of Dental Plans — a limit you can easily blow through when you’re facing any kind of serious work, like a root canal, crowns, or a full-mouth deep cleaning. So you want to space out appointments to get the most from your coverage.

Do what you can this year to reach your 2013 maximum, then go back in January or February to work on next year’s cap.

3. Don’t give up on tax breaks

Starting in 2013, medical expenses must exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income before you can write them off against your federal taxes, up from 7.5% last year.

Think you won’t qualify? Don’t toss those receipts just yet. Some states have lower thresholds — New Jersey’s is 2%, Alabama’s is 4%, and Massachusetts’ is 7.5%. And for those 65 and older, the federal threshold stays at 7.5% through 2016, notes Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt.

4. Grab your wellness rewards at work

At more than a quarter of large firms, employees can earn gift cards, trips, stuff, or a few hundred dollars in cash by participating in wellness programs, such as screenings that measure your weight and cholesterol or questionnaires about your health habits, and those rewards run out at year-end. (A smaller number reward you by adding to a health savings or health reimbursement account.)

Now’s the time to see if you can nab some easy cash, says Watts.

5. Check your FSA

Health flexible spending accounts have been use-it-or-lose-it. Unless your boss gave you until March 15 to spend the money (about half of big firms do, reports WageWorks), you forfeited what was left on Dec. 31.

In October the Treasury Department revised the rules to let you carry over $500, but only if you don’t get the grace period and your company changes the plan in time. Since you can put $2,500 into your FSA, you could have a balance to spend now.

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