Prioritize your health with these year-end moves

Prioritize your health with these year-end moves

It’s been a heck of a year. But it’s not over yet. Get ready to ring in the new year by prioritizing your health and taking these preventive wellness steps.

As the year winds down, it’s normal to shift your focus to the future. You may be eager to leave the stress of 2020 behind but there are still plenty of savvy moves to make for a healthier and happier 2021. Here are some preventive wellness steps to take before ringing in the New Year.

Make time to get your flu shot

There is still time to protect yourself (and those around you) with this year’s flu shot. Although the vaccine isn’t a guarantee against getting the flu, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies show that it may reduce your risk of severe illness. Likewise, the flu vaccine could lessen your chances of getting sick enough to go to the hospital, which may be critical this year if COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, which could result in significantly fewer available hospital beds.

Most health insurance plans will cover the vaccine, but if you don’t have flu shot coverage, there may be other ways to make the shot more affordable. For instance, your state’s health department may offer free or reduced-cost flu vaccines. And if you have a health savings account (HSA), it can cover the shot’s cost.

Check your coronavirus coverage

Thankfully, it appears that a vaccine is on its way. But coronavirus cases continue to spike nationwide, so it may be smart to craft a preparedness plan. Take the time to see what your health insurance plan covers. Thanks to the FFCRA and the CARES Act, most people with health insurance won’t have to pay for testing. But unfortunately, that may not be the case with treatment.

You should review your health plan to see what would happen if you contracted the virus and went to the hospital for treatment. Luckily, if your health insurance doesn’t cover what you expect, you may still use your HSA for out-of-pocket coronavirus expenses (except, sadly, not masks). 

Schedule check-ups before year-end

If you’ve been putting off preventive health measures, you may be able to squeeze in a few appointments before the year ends. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance now provides access to various preventive health screenings once per year, free of charge. These screenings may include checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, and more. It may be possible to schedule these screenings during your annual physical, which may also be free.

You may also consider scheduling your annual eye exam, skin cancer screenings through your dermatologist, or your bi-annual cleanings at the dentist. If your health or dental insurance doesn’t cover the full cost, you can—you guessed it— pay for the balance using your Starship HSA card.

Check your health insurance deductible

As you schedule check-ups, you should review your health insurance. The status of your health insurance deductible may be particularly important. Here’s why: if you have already met your health insurance deductible, you may pay less money on any healthcare expenses through the end of the year. And if you have the time, you may want to schedule any procedures you’ve been putting off before the deductible resets again in 2021.

Consider finding a therapist

There’s no doubt about it: the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis have taken a toll, and many folks have been grappling with the emotional fallout. Whether you’re struggling to cope with the impacts of the pandemic or other challenges, it may be worth it to start working with a licensed mental health professional. An experienced therapist may help you deal with complicated feelings, develop the tools for navigating life’s difficulties or offer ongoing treatment for mental illness. 

It’s never easy to begin, but if you start the process now, you may build a relationship with someone you trust before the end of the year. Prioritizing your health, and your mental health in particular right now may pave the way for feeling better in 2021.

Get all the details about how to use your HSA to help pay for your mental health here

Create a healthcare budget for 2021  

If you’re going into the New Year with a high-deductible health plan, you know how tough it can be to budget for out-of-pocket expenses. But if you will have the same health plan or similar coverage, you may ease the financial burden by saving for these bigger costs every month.

You can start by making a list of your total out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for 2020. If you’re expecting similar costs in 2021, simply divide the total by 12 and make it part of your ongoing budget. (Hint: I wrote about my own HDHP budgeting strategy here.)  

Be proactive, prioritize your health

While some things can be impossible to plan for (hello, coronavirus!), being proactive is vital to lifelong health and wellness. By reviewing your health insurance details, you can learn what services you may access for free and which ones you will have to cover. And of course, with its three key tax benefits, your health savings account is an excellent way to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. By taking care of your health to-do list now, you may kick off the new year feeling ready to embrace a healthier 2021.