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Open enrollment season offers chance to save money in health benefits

The Pinch

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During open enrollment season, millions of Americans review and select their health benefits package for the next year. This period, which typically lasts from September to December, gives consumers the chance to keep some money in their wallets and improve their health, according to a release from the Weaver Stephens Group.

Here are the agency’s tips for making the most of open enrollment:

  • Look for incentive-based health programs. Many companies are promoting wellness programs that reward employees for making healthy choices and being more engaged in improving their health. Incentive-based programs, such as UnitedHealthcare’s Personal Rewards or Simply Engaged Plus, provide financial rewards for lowering your cholesterol, losing weight or signing up for a health coaching program or gym membership.
  • Open a health savings account. More employers are offering health plans that include a health savings account. This is like a personal bank account that allows a person to save for health-related expenses. Unlike flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts are not “use it or lose it.” Health savings accounts offer triple tax advantages because the money is deposited pre-tax from your paycheck, accrues interest tax-free and withdrawals are not taxed if the funds are used for qualified health-related expenses.
  • Get preventive care. Some health care plans offer services such as children’s immunizations, annual physicals, mammograms and colonoscopies at no cost to the consumer.
  • Compare treatment costs. Some health plans offer tools to estimate your health care costs. UnitedHealthcare, for instance, has a Treatment Cost Estimator that allows consumers to compare the estimated price of medical treatments and services between different physicians. Some tools also compare the quality ratings among physicians in the health plan’s network.
  • Don’t overlook other benefits. Many employers offer supplemental or voluntary benefits that can also help save money. Critical illness and disability plans protect your income and help pay your bills if you’re out of work for an extended amount of time because of illness. The plans can cost as little as $7 per month while providing thousands of dollars in coverage.

COUPONS

Today’s issue of The Augusta Chronicle has $1,578.38 in coupons. This includes $380.94 in SmartSource, $24.75 in RedPlum, $20 at Rite Aid, $14.50 at Walmart, $10 at Rack Room Shoes, $7.29 at Walgreens, $20 at Publix and $1,100.90 at Harbor Freight.

The RedPlum insert in today’s Augusta Chronicle has a coupon to save $1 on any one Boudreaux’s baby product. It expires Dec. 31.

FOR A LIMITED TIME

Educator Appreciation Days: Barnes & Noble will honor teachers with Educator Appreciation Days from Oct. 15-23. Pre-K to 12th-grade teachers can use their free Educator Discount Card to save up to 25 percent on classroom and personal purchases.

15-Week Sam's Club Membership: Through Monday, consumers can sign up for a 15-week membership at Sam's Club for only $15. Customers must be older than 18 to purchase a membership.

TRADE-IN ELECTRONICS

Walmart.com Program: With the release of the new iPhone 4S, Walmart.com is offering an Electronics Trade-In Program. Customers can get up to $250 for iPhone 4 32GB models, according to a release.

The program allows customers to trade in used electronics, including older iPhone models, mobile phones, laptops, cameras and more, in exchange for Walmart.com eGift cards.

The program is offered by Gazelle, which focuses on re-use and recycling to minimize the number of used electronics that end up in landfills.

Here's how to trade in used electronics on Walmart.com:

1. Visit www.walmart.gazelle.com, and the online calculator will determine a value for each item.

2. Ship the item to Gazelle, which provides prepaid shipping labels online.

3. After Gazelle receives and inspects the items, it will e-mail an eGift card for the value of the items within seven days.

FOR YOUR HEALTH

Schedule a Mammogram, Receive Free Food: October is Na­tional Breast Cancer Aware­ness Month, and Doctors Hospital, Chick-fil-A and 88.3 WAFJ are partnering with the American Cancer Society to promote early breast cancer detection.

Women who schedule a mammogram at Doctors Hospital during October will receive a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich and a 2012 pocket calendar from the hospital's Women's Diag­nos­tic Center.

American Cancer Society guidelines state that women 40 and older should have a mammogram every year. To schedule a mammogram, call (877) 357-0159.


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