Flexible spending accounts: Ways to use that money

Average worker has $172 in flex dollars left at end of year

Woman purchasing supplements at clinic with flexible spending account money.

It is getting toward that time of year when monitoring your flexible spending account is a good idea.

Setting up your FSA was a good idea in the first place, of course. A flexible spending account is an opportunity to set aside pre-tax dollars for anticipated out-of-pocket health care expenses. When properly utilized, it means at the end of the year you’ll save an amount matching the taxes you would have paid on the money you put in the account.

The savings you’ll enjoy come with one stipulation, however. You have to spend the money in the account by the end of the year. Otherwise, it’s gone.

Yes, there are ways to extend the Dec. 31 reporting deadline within some health plans. But generally speaking, the window between now and the end of 2019 is use-it-or-lose-it time for flexible spending accounts.

Pay attention to account

“We want you to use that money,” said Deb Lee, flexible spending manager at Sanford Health Plan. “We want to avoid a situation where there’s confusion and misunderstanding regarding your benefits.”

Potentially, that could mean dollars squandered. The average worker loses $172 in their FSA at the end of the year, according to WageWorks.

“Sanford Health Plan mails statements designed to help members track their funds, but if you’re unsure about where you stand, reach out to your insurance provider. We’re here to help,”  Lee said.

Ways to spend your FSA dollars

Visit the dentist: Regular dental treatments and most non-cosmetic procedures are FSA eligible. You can pay for cleanings, fillings, sealants, crowns, braces, dentures and many other dental procedures. You will need to provide a dental explanation of benefits (EOB) for substantiation.

Visit the eye doctor: Eye exams, prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, prescription reading glasses and contacts are all eligible expenses. Another important expense that can be covered is contact lens solution. Itemized receipts are required for substantiation.

Visit an acupuncturist: This treatment can help with pain relief, headaches, back pain and hypertension. Make sure it’s a licensed acupuncture professional. Medical EOBs or itemized receipts can be used for substantiation.

Visit a chiropractor:  If acupuncture did not do the job, see a chiropractor. You also can buy heating pads and braces for backs, knees, elbows, wrists and ankles, as well as compression sleeves. EOB or itemized receipt required.

Family planning: There are over-the-counter family planning items (including contraceptives) and medical procedures that are eligible for purchase with your FSA. Condoms, foams, pregnancy test kits and ovulation test kits are a few of the eligible items. Fertility treatments and breast pumps are also covered. Itemized receipt required.

Visit the audiologist: Hearing tests, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries are all eligible expenses. Itemized receipt required.

Restock your medicine cabinet: First aid kits, adhesive bandages, elastic bandages, blood pressure monitors, sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), glucose test strips, thermometers and vaporizers are all eligible. With a doctor’s prescription you can also purchase allergy relievers, pain relievers like Advil and Tylenol and vitamins.

Sanford Chip eligible

Lee also pointed out that the IRS recently approved the Sanford Chip, which examines your DNA to look at how your body processes medications, as an eligible medical expense. TytoCare kits are also eligible.

Sanford Health Plan has a mobile app, as well as an online portal, that can help people through the year-end flexible spending process. Both include access to IRS lists of eligible expenses.

“We provide a number of tools to help members understand their plans,” Lee said. “We just want to make sure people are utilizing them so they get the most out of their hard-earned money.”

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Posted In Health Plan, Healthy Living

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