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Look deeper into health savings accounts

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| November 19, 2020 1:00 AM

It's that time of the year for not just the holidays but open enrollment for health insurance, too. If you haven't considered a Health Savings Account, it may be worth considering as you make some decisions on your health care options for 2021.

An HSA is a type of savings account used to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses. Funds deposited in your HSA reduce your adjusted gross income so you are actually using pre-tax dollars to pay these expenses.

However, the funds cannot be used to pay insurance premiums, nor can they be used for anything other than medical expenses. Whatever funds do not get spent remain in the account indefinitely and grow tax-free so you don't lose them, unlike flex spending accounts that employers may offer.

An HSA is also a way to shelter more income than one can by way of employer retirement plans or individual retirement accounts. After the account holder turns 65, funds can be withdrawn and used for any purpose free of any penalties though subject to income tax.

If an HSA sounds like an option you'd like to pursue, you must sign up for a Qualified High-Deductible Plan, so be sure that your selected insurance plan meets this criteria. There are dollar limits on how much can be contributed in 2021, up to $3,600 for an individual and $7,200 for a family with an extra $1,000 allowed if you are over age 55.

Be careful of the dollar limits if your employer contributes to your HSA as those contributions would reduce the limits listed.

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SPAM AND SCAM TEXTS: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

I’ve received many calls and emails from readers who are tired of getting both spam and scam text messages. Everything from surveys, COVID-19 testing kits to diet tips, it seems everyone is getting inundated with text messages these days.

Some readers have asked if they should reply STOP, QUIT or UNSUBSCRIBE so these text messages stop coming to their phone. Sometimes, the directions on how to do this are included in the message itself, but is this a good idea?

The Cellular Telephone Industries Association requires text message programs to acknowledge and act on phone users’ requests to opt-out or end correspondence when told to do so, but it's hard to tell if this is actually happening.

As for the scam texts, which are the phishing scams, identity theft and unintended subscriptions and opt-in messages, there are several questions you need to ask yourself to confirm you are dealing with scammers:

  1. Does the text ask you to give any personal information?
  2. Does the text claim that you have a fake invoice for a transaction you believe you didn’t authorize?
  3. Does the text claim that you have a package delivery when you haven’t ordered anything?

It's still a good idea that if you get a text message, even if you think it's authentic, to contact the company using a phone number or website that you have confirmed to be authentic. Don’t use the contact information in the text message and don’t click on any links.

You can also report these suspicious messages to your carrier by copying and pasting the message in a new text message box and then sending the text to 7726 (SPAM). Your wireless provider will then send you an automated message acknowledging receipt.

You can also report spam and scam messages to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint, then follow the prompts once you’ve selected the category.

If you'd like to see more information on the ways scammers are targeting unsuspecting people via text, check out the FTC website: https://bit.ly/2UBbBsa

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APPLIANCE SERVICE CONCERNS

Some appliance repair and service companies are warning us that if an appliance is giving us trouble, we need to be aware that appliance companies are having trouble getting parts.

Many parts are on backorder from the factories so finding parts that are usually available might not be obtainable or are taking longer to order. Companies suggest that we not self-clean our ovens until after the holidays or we might find that we aren’t able to cook. If you do have a self-cleaning oven and need to clean it manually, make sure to purchase a product that says “safe for self-cleaning ovens.” Refer to your use and care guide and follow the recommendations.

It's also a good time to clean the filters in the dishwasher to ensure maximum performance. Remember to run lukewarm water to the faucet right before starting the dishwasher. This will purge the cold water out of the plumbing, so your first fill of water is not cold. Use a rinse-aid and a quality dishwashing detergent to help your system run smoothly.

Finally, be aware that if you special order appliances from stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, these companies have no control over how quickly the factories they order from are able to fill the order. In some instances, factories are being shut down because one employee tests positive for COVID-19. This situation has negatively impacted the entire supply chain.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.