Now that the holidays have passed, you may be starting to think about your New Year’s resolutions. But have you thought about your flexible spending account (FSA)? FSAs are valuable, tax-saving tools that can be used to pay for medical and health-related expenses. But if the money you have put into the account is not used by December 31, you may lose it. Even if your FSA is set up to allow a $500 carryover or an extended grace period (log in and check your FSA plan specifics to find out), now’s the time to take a look at your balance, figure out how to use it, and plan for the year ahead.
If you need some ideas for how to spend your FSA money, we can help you get started. Please remember: The suggestions below are commonly accepted as qualified expenses for general purpose FSAs. If you have a limited purpose FSA, your list of eligible expenses may be more restricted. Check your FSA plan specifics for exclusions and coverage.
- Visit your doctor.
Have you been putting off a doctor visit? Maybe a skin cancer screening or a cholesterol check? We get it – life gets busy. But these screenings are important. Plus, you may be able to use your FSA money to pay for your portion of the cost-share.
FSA money may also be used for the cost of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or chiropractic therapy. Get an appointment on the books now!
- …and while you’re at it, visit your dentist!
One of the most common uses for FSA money is paying for orthodontia. It may be late in the year, but if you have a child in need of braces, and you can get an appointment in now, it may be a good time to get started and a wise use of your FSA funds. Alternately, if you wear dentures, you could use the money to invest in a new set.
- See and hear clearly.
Your FSA money can be used to pay for eye exams, a new or extra pair of glasses, new or extra contact lens supplies, and even LASIK eye surgery. You can also spend FSA money on smaller, but equally needed items, like contact cases or stocking up on solution.
If you wear hearing aids (or think you might need to!), your FSA account can help cover the associated costs. Don’t forget to purchase extra hearing aid batteries – those are eligible, too!
- Restock your medicine cabinets.
FSA money cannot be spent on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines without prescriptions, but there are plenty of nonmedicinal products that it can be used for, like bandages, antibacterial creams, reading glasses, joint braces, and wound care. Once your medicine cabinet is replenished, consider creating (or purchasing) a to-go first aid kit for your car or purse.
Medical equipment such as blood-pressure monitors and thermometers also qualifies for FSA reimbursement. If you’re unsure about exactly which OTC items your FSA will cover, check your FSA plan details or ask your health benefits administrator.
- Prepare for a winter vacation.
If you’re planning a vacation this winter, use your FSA money to purchase sunscreen that you will most definitely need! Or, treat yourself to a pair of prescription sunglasses, also covered by your FSA.
Start your New Year’s resolution early.
Smoking cessation, alcohol or drug treatment, and medically-needed weight-loss programs are all eligible for reimbursement under your FSA.
- Start planning for next year.
As more and more companies switch to offering high deductible health plans, it’s important to understand which funding accounts pair with these plans. If you are considering or have enrolled in a high deductible health plan for next year, please keep the following in mind:
- If you have a traditional, general-purpose health FSA you are ineligible to establish a health savings account (HSA). If you wish to open an HSA, you will also want to be absolutely sure the balance in your current FSA account is $0 by the end of your plan year.
- If you have a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), you can participate in a health FSA.
If you have a large amount of FSA money that you’re trying to spend as the year ends, it doesn’t mean an FSA isn’t right for you. It simply means you may need to take a closer look at your health expense estimates for the year. Consider refining your annual contribution based on purchases you made throughout the year and any expenses you know are coming up next year.
FSAs are an important part of your overall health plan package – and knowing how to use the funds you contribute is equally important. We hope these practical (and healthy!) tips will allow you to take advantage of your FSA money before the year ends.
Bonus tip! If your health plan includes Life Points®, you’ll also want to log in to cash those out before the end of the year. Life Points is a calendar year program and points reset on January 1, regardless of when your medical benefits renew. Points must be redeemed no later than 8 p.m. on December 31. CDPHP encourages you to use your points toward the purchase of health and wellness-related items.