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News: 2012 Press Release

For Release: December 12, 2012
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
California Department Of Insurance Reminds Consumers To Use Their 2012 Health Benefits Before They Expire
Flexible Spending Accounts, Benefit Plans should be reviewed

SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Insurance (CDI) today reminded consumers to use their 2012 benefits before they expire on December 31. Commonly known as Flexible Spending Plans (FSA), or Cafeteria Plans, these accounts often allow for pre-tax contributions to be used for medical expenses and some plans also allow coverage of day care expenses.

"Many consumers are facing financial difficulty in this economy and must save every dollar possible," said Commissioner Jones. "Allowing the monies in these types of accounts to go unused -- and then to forfeit them - can hoist unneeded financial stress on families and their budgets."

CDI urges consumers to review their benefits and maximize them at the end of the year to ensure the most return on those dollars set aside for health care related expenses. The following points can assist consumers in maximizing their benefits:

  • Check your total deductibles you have paid to date in 2012. If your deductible has been met, and you were planning to schedule medical services in the next few months, you should consider scheduling those services before the end of the year;
  • Dental needs can also be addressed, including annual cleanings or minor dental work such as the replacement of filings;
  • You may want to refill needed prescription medicines with those end of year funds in the account;
  • Vision plans often include a free pair of eye glasses or contacts annually.

It is estimated that consumers with these types of accounts generally surrender $120 per year when they leave these funds in an expired account.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, consumers have approximately a two-and-a-half-month grace period to use these funds. That means by mid-March, if they go unused, they are forfeited. In addition, some of the rules related to FSA's have changed. For more information on these changes please visit the FSA store at www.fsastore.com.

Consumers can also contact the California Department of Insurance at 800-927-HELP for information or to get assistance regarding their health plans and insurance policies.

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The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California, regulating the $123 billion insurance marketplace. In 2013 the California Department of Insurance received more than 170,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $63 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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