Mental health Spotlight

By: GeraldOchoa

Although the pandemic is slowly ending, mental health problems will likely not abate. Many Americans are anxious about returning to work, seeing their children go to school and reading about current events. They are also more open to using virtual mental health services. The American Psychiatric Association conducted a May poll and found that nearly 60% of Americans would use teletherapy services. This is up from 49% in 2020. Employers are paying attention. According to the Business Group on Health, 90% of large employers are concerned about employees’ mental health. 62% added new mental benefits in 2021, including Teletherapy. These services will likely continue to be available in 2022.

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If you have a mental illness, funds from your HSA or flexible spending account can be used to pay for teletherapy and in person sessions. Jody Dietel is senior vice president of advocacy at HealthEquity. She says that if you need marriage counseling to simply reconnect with your spouse, then your HSA and FSA money won’t generally cover it. She says that if your therapist recommends that you bring your spouse to therapy for depression, it would likely be covered by both the HSA and FSA rules.

Telehealth at a lower cost: More telehealth

Employer-provided health plans will offer expanded access to telemedicine, including for dermatology and diabetes. According to Mercer (a benefits consulting company), the average telehealth visit will cost between $40 and $50 in 2020. However, prices are on the rise for virtual mental and behavioral therapy. If you choose a high-deductible plan, you might be required to pay full price for any telehealth service until you reach your deductible. This is similar to the case for in-person visits.

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Telehealth now covered by Medicare, thanks to this pandemic

In 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act was passed. This law allowed insurers to waive copayments and meet a deductible for telehealth visits. It did not affect the tax status of the plans. This provision will expire January 1, 2022. If you don’t meet your deductible, you may be responsible for all telehealth services. Health care advocates are lobbying Congress for the extension of the telehealth provisions.

Prescriptions for vision, dental, and prescriptions

After you have addressed your medical concerns, make sure to look into your options for vision and dental care. Employers often offer two vision plans and one dental plan.

Don’t rush to sign up for the cheapest option or skimp on coverage this year. Regular vision and dental screenings are essential, as changes in the eye, gum, and tooth health could indicate other medical issues. Your dentist or optometrist might find problems that need immediate attention if you delay appointments due to the pandemic.

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Medicare Advantage Plans Right for You?

Check for changes to your coverage when you sign up for a prescription medication plan. The coverage is usually divided into categories with generic drugs being the most expensive. Non-preferred brand-name drugs usually have higher co-payments, while some drugs might not be covered.

When you are checking your prescriptions, remember that it might be cheaper to pay cash at big retailers like Walmart than to make the co-payment required by your insurance plan.

Benefits of HSA and FSA

Your health savings account can be used to cover a wide range of out-of pocket costs, including co-payments and contact lenses. The HSA annual contribution limit to self-only coverage goes up from $3,600 a $3,650 in 2022. The limit increases to $7,200 to $7.300 next year if you have family coverage. You can contribute an additional $1,000 if you are 55 years old or older by 2022.

You may be offered a flexible spending account for health care by your employer. This allows you to put aside pretax money to pay qualified out-of pocket medical expenses. You could have $2,750 in an FSA by 2021; the 2022 limit hadn’t been disclosed at press time.

COBRA and the market

The American Rescue Plan increased ACA subsidies, lowering premiums at all income levels and eliminating some for households. An enhanced silver-level plan will be available to you if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), for 2021, is between 100% to 150% of the federal poverty line ($17,420 to $26,130 a couple), then it’s free. (Brown plans generally have the lowest premiums with the highest deductibles. Platinum plans have the highest premiums but the lowest deductibles. Silver and gold plans are in the middle.

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Premiums will drop for those who earn between 150% and 400% of federal poverty level in 2021. Households with incomes above 400% of FPL ($69,680 per household) will also see a decrease in premiums. The premium amount they pay is limited to 8.5% of their MAGI.