The big day: Healthcare deadlines for the employed and unemployed


December 31 is an important day when it comes to healthcare purchases, because a few things will be expiring on that date. For those of you with flexible spending accounts, it's the last day for you to use the money you've stashed in that account, or else you'll forfeit the balance. (However, a few companies will let employees use their 2009 FSA money until March or April 2010, so check with your HR person.)

What's eligible? Lots. Many over-the-counter drugstore purchases like aspirin and contact-lens solution, will qualify. USA Today financial columnist Sandra Block lists other useful ways to spend your FSA funds without feeling like you're forced to stock up on gallons tubs of ibuprofen. For example, if you do mail-order prescriptions that renew in early 2010, you can ask your provider if you can order a three-month supply now. If you get a flu shot at a clinic, the co-pay is an eligible expense. Or you can stock up on sunscreen and birth control for that next beach vacation -- both are medical protections that qualify as eligible expenses.

For the unemployed, December 31 is also a key date. I recently interviewed Martin Rosen, founder of the company Health Advocate Inc. and co-author of the new book The Healthcare Survival Guide, and he noted two programs geared toward helping the recently jobless with some of their healthcare costs.