Give your kids a health care boost with an HSA

Normally, this column is focused on retirement planning. But let's not forget the group that will benefit most in the future from proactive health care management -- children. The average parent spends roughly $12,980 annually per child – and of that, 9% is allotted to health care costs.

Think doctor's appointments, vaccinations, and your occasional emergency room visit. And that's not even including the cost of child care, giving birth, or going to college, the latter of which is terrifying no matter how you slice it.

With health care costs emerging as a major spend for parents both old and new, it can be tempting to skimp in order to save a few bucks. But here's why you shouldn't cut back on health care for kids, even when they're healthy – and how your HSA can help.

Catching things early

I'm not a doctor – but with the first year of parenthood under my belt, I certainly know my way around a pediatrician's office. And an emergency room. And the occasional Urgent Care.

While I've spent a fair amount of copays and charges not covered by my high-deductible health plan (HDHP), I'd like to think that all those semi-frantic trips to my pediatrician for a bad stomach bug or lingering cough saved us from more serious issues down the road. (Also, who knew that teething could cause a major case of congestion? Yeah, me neither.)

Having a fully-funded HSA can help you feel a bit better about visiting your pediatrician for the second time that week. After all, our HSA contributions are deducted, pre-tax from our paycheck before it even hits the account. That means we don't have to stress about – or budget for – an unexpected emergency room bill.

Dental care is health care, too

Did you know you're supposed to start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as he or she sprouts their first pearly white? I didn't either, until my pediatrician told me.

Good dental hygiene is an important piece of your child's primary care – but isn't always treated as such. One study even found that 25% of children age 2-5 suffer from tooth decay, but that most oral disease is entirely preventable.

While you can't use your HSA to pay for those cute, tiny toothbrushes, you can use it to offset your dental copays. Since my son now has more than 10 teeth, we'll will be visiting our local pediatric dentist for the first time next month.

Avoiding major illnesses

One way we avoid major issues with our little guy? You guessed it. We follow our doctor's plan when it comes to vaccinations. While vaccinating your children has become a controversial topic in recent years, the Centers for Disease Controla and Prevention cites them as the best way to avoid 14 serious childhood diseases – illnesses like diptheria, Hepatitis A and B, the flu, whooping cough, polio, rubella, and measles, just to name a few.

Vaccinations aren't cheap – but thanks to our HDHP and our HSA, we don't sweat the cost at all. Plus, you can't put a price tag on peace of mind.

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