what is an fsa

Making the Most of FSA

Making The Most Of Your FSA

As the end of the year approaches, many health care Flexible Saving Account (FSA) participants scramble to use up their remaining balances before their plan year ends and the dreaded “use-it-or-lose-it” begins. This panic could be particularly painful if participants elected far more than they ended up spending throughout the year. We will teach you how to make the most out of your expenses and your plan.

What many participants may not realize is the full range of expenses that qualify for reimbursement and the many ways they can use these funds. Below are some suggestions on how to avoid forfeiting FSA funds at the end of a plan year and fully maximize the benefit of an FSA.

Eligible Expenses

  • Prescriptions for Over-the-Counter Medications: While it is true that many OTC products are ineligible for reimbursement, a straightforward method to change a product’s eligibility is a prescription from a doctor. Need to take aspirin for a heart condition? Ibuprofen for chronic pain? A specific vitamin because of a deficiency? Aloe Vera for a severe burn? Get a prescribing note from a doctor, and that ineligible item becomes reimbursable. Do note that such products usually must be submitted as manual claims, as a benefits card will probably not accept these expenses.
  • Other Doctor-Ordered Treatments: Many treatments become eligible for reimbursement when accompanied by a doctor’s orders (in a Letter of Medical Necessity for the cure, mitigation, prevention, or management of a disease, injury, or other medical condition). These expenses can include but are not limited to massage therapy, a gym membership, snoring aids, genetic testing, weight-loss, and addiction recovery programs, as well as alternative medicines and therapies. (Participants will want to research their specific expenses before submitting for reimbursement).
  • Acupuncture and Chiropractic Expenses: Unlike massage therapy, both acupuncture therapy and chiropractic treatments are FSA-eligible without the need for a doctor’s prescription or letter. Again, a benefits debit card may not recognize these expenses as eligible so that a manual claim may be necessary.
  • First-Aid Kits and Other First-Aid Expenses: A whole range of first-aid items are FSA-eligible, and usually can be purchased at a pharmacy, major retailer (Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.). These can include: bandages, first-aid tape, antiseptic gels and sprays, braces and wraps, burn ointments, gauze, thermometers, heating pads, ice packs, etc. Also, multiple first aid kits for the home, vehicles, RVs, boats, and other uses can purchase with FSA funds.
  • Family Planning: Purchase family planning with an FSA, including pregnancy tests and various forms of birth control.
  • Service Animal Expenses: Individuals who need a service animal for visual, hearing, or other physical disabilities may have the costs associated with the animal, including food and grooming, reimbursed from an FSA.
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm: Products that are SPF 15 or higher, such as sunscreens and certain types of lip balm, are FSA eligible.
  • Vision Expenses: While most know that an eye exam and glasses are FSA-eligible, many do not realize that many more vision-related expenses are as well. Including eye drops, reading glasses, sunglasses (doctor prescribed), contact lenses, contact lens solutions and cases, bifocals, and even corrective laser eye surgery (LASIK, PRK, etc.).
  • Mental Health Therapy and Counseling: FSA reimburses therapy when provided from a licensed office or by a licensed practitioner, the costs associated with therapy and counseling sessions. 
  • Shoe Insoles and Inserts: Podiatric items – for example, shoe inserts, arch braces, or treatments for blisters (like moleskin) – are eligible for reimbursement without a doctor’s prescription or direction.

These examples are only a small sampling of potential reimbursements. This link provides additional Various Eligible Expenses. The benefit experts at HR Service and their sister company B3PA can provide you with even more information about what is possible with an FSA.

Next Article: Comparing HSA, FSA, and HRA Plans

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