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Doctors pack in patients to use up end-of-year flex spending money

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 23, 2014) - It's one holiday rush you wouldn't necessarily think of. Many health insurance flexible spending policies close at the end of the year.

But money in those accounts, it can occasionally go away with it.

"A lot of people don't come to the dentist until they absolutely have to," said Dentist, Dr. Leonard Scott.

That's why Scott's office is packed with patients this time of year.

"As people realize that these benefits are running out and they want to use them before the lose them," he said.

Flexible spending health care and dental accounts though changed slightly by the Affordable Care Act, are still use or lose. That means, after next Wednesday, the money you deposited into your FSA should be spent, or your cash becomes credit to the insurance company.

There is a phenomenon of an end of the year surgical rush created by the way health insurance works in this country," said Dr. Joel Feldman, President of St. Vincent Hospital.

Feldman said another end of the year rush comes from elective procedures. Once a patient's out of pocket deductible is met, the medical expenses that follow, are covered by insurance. So if a procedure can wait, many patients take it till the very end.

"You could do that almost any time that it's convenient for you and the physician and if you have the opportunity of waiting until the deductible's paid, that makes it less expensive for you," said Feldman.

"It's really important that they take an inventory of their expenses," said health insurance adviser, Matt Kleymeyer.

With many open enrollment periods ending in the coming months, now is the time Kleymeyer explains, to reconsider your coverage.

"Have an understanding as to where their healthcare spending is coming from, so then they can make more informed decisions as far as what plan best meets their need," he said.

Open enrollment for some health insurance companies is still open. If that's the case with yours, be sure to pick a plan with a lower deductible, less out of pocket costs, and more preventive care coverage. Experts say all those factors will help in keeping you covered evenly throughout the year.

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