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Benefit alert: Money you might usually lose after Dec. 31 may stay in your account this time due to the pandemic

As a record number of people sign up for insurance in Texas, those who already have coverage and have an FSA may benefit from pandemic rules changes.

As we count down to a new year, a lot of people will wish they had the power to put a little extra time back on the clock because they haven’t yet spent the money in their flexible spending account, or FSA. Those allow you to make tax-free contributions from your paychecks to cover things like dependent care and medical expenses.

If you don't use an FSA, you risk losing it. Each year, a lot of FSA money is lost

If your plan follows the calendar year, you have to spend the money in your account by Dec. 31. Normally, some employers allow a grace period that gives you several extra months to use leftover money. Other employers allow you to carry over some of your unused money to the following year. 

But generally, if you have a lot left in your FSA at the end of the year, you lose it.

It’s estimated that American workers with FSA balances forfeit about $400 million a year -- just because the clock runs out on them. But now, we are on pandemic time, so the rules have been relaxed some.

Among the changes, you may have a longer grace period to spend your leftover FSA money, or you may be able to carry over a much greater amount than in years past. 

Check with your benefits administrator at work so you can make sure you understand your FSA benefits, including possible pandemic alterations. 

Hopefully, if you still have money in your FSA, you get a reprieve so you can ring in 2022 without stressing about that. 

By the way if you have a health spending account, or HSA, those funds don’t have to be spent by year’s end. HSA funds carryover into the new year.

Texas setting record for Affordable Care Act enrollment this year

On the subject of health care, an average of 285,201 Texans per week have been signing up for medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Between Nov. 1 (when open enrollment began) and Dec. 15, 1,711,204 Texans got coverage

It’s not clear how many of those are new and how many are renewals. But, by far, that represents the most sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act we have ever seen in Texas

And that number will go even higher when the enrollments for the rest of December are added in, along with the enrollments for the first two weeks of January. Remember you have until Jan. 15 to enroll. Click here to learn more or sign up.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most of the enrollees are getting tax credit discounts. Even with the new enrollments, Texas still has the most uninsured people in the country.

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