FSA

Utilize FSA Monies with Key Year–End Strategies

‘Tis the Season’. Like most, you‘re probably in the midst of the “hustle and bustle” of this holiday season with dinners, parties, and activities; Christmas shopping; and spending those remaining FSA dollars you have allocated this year.  

Wait, what? Yes, you read right. Chances are, if you’ve opted to utilize an employer-sponsored FSA account in 2017, you may have remaining funds you’ll need to spend. This is especially true if your employer opted for the $500 carryover rule in lieu of a grace period. Regardless of what flexible spending account you have, here are some strategies to get the most out of this benefit before year end.

Medical Care

Medical FSAs are the most common supplemental flexible coverage offered under employer benefit plans. If you’ve elected this coverage for 2017, here are a few things to consider when spending these funds.

Routine and Elective Medical Procedures

Whether routine or not, now’s the time to get appointments booked. If your employer offers a grace period for turning in receipts, you can book appointments into the first couple of months of the New Year and get reimbursed from this year’s funds without affecting 2018’s contributions. This has a two-fold advantage, as you can also spread next year’s deductible over the coming year.  

Several routine and elective procedures that are FSA-eligible include:

·        Lasik

·        Sleep Apnea/Snoring

·        Hernia surgery

·        Colonoscopy

·        Smoking/Weight Loss Cessation Programs

Alternative Therapies

Under IRS law, certain alternative therapies are eligible for reimbursement. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, alternative medicinal treatments, and herbal supplements and remedies are a great way to use up your funds for the year and get a little cash back when you most need it.

Dental

Dental benefits often work differently than medical coverage. According to the American Dental Association, this benefit is often capped annually – generally between $1,000 and $3,000.  If you have unused funds remaining in your FSA, now may be the time to schedule a last-minute appointment with your dentist, especially if you might need serious work down the road. This way, you can use up the funds remaining in your account by year-end, and reduce your out-of-pocket expense next year by sharing the cost of additional dental services over a longer period of time.

Prescription Refills

Refilling your prescription medications at year end are a great way to use up your funds in your medical FSA. Take inventory of your prescription drugs, toss out expired ones, and make that call for a refill to your doctor or pharmacy.

Over the Counter Drugs, Medical Equipment and Supplies

Many OTC medications, medical equipment and supplies are eligible for reimbursement under a medical FSA. First-aid kits, blood-pressure monitors, thermometers, and joint braces are just a few.  Please note that some will require a note or prescription from your doctor.

Mileage and Other Healthcare-Related Extras

Traveling to and from any medical facility for appointments or treatment are eligible for reimbursement under your FSA. This not only includes traveling by your own vehicle, but also by bus, train, plane, ambulance service; and does include parking fees and tolls.

In addition, you can get reimbursed for other health-related expenses. These include:

·        Lodging and meals during a medical event.

·        Medical conferences concerning an illness of you or one of your dependents.

·        Advance Payments on a retirement home or long-term care.

Dependent Care

If you have opted to contribute to a DCFSA, you can get reimbursed for day care, preschool, summer camps and non-employer sponsored before and after school programs. In addition, funds contributed to this type of FSA can be used for elderly daycare if you’re covering more than 50% your parent’s maintenance costs.

Adoption Assistance

If you are contributing to an Adoption Assistance FSA offered by your employer, you can get reimbursed for any expenses incurred in the process of legally adopting an eligible child.  Eligible expenses include adoption fees, attorney fees and court costs, medical expenses for a child prior to being placed for adoption, and related travel costs in association with the adoption process.

Make the most out of your FSA contributions by using the above strategies to your advantage as we close out 2017. As you move into 2018, review the maximum contribution guidelines for the coming year as set by the IRS, and establish a game plan on expenditures next year. Seek your HR department’s expertise for guidelines and tips they can give you to maximize this valuable benefit package.

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How to Make the Most Out of Your FSA at Year-End

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time to act on the money sitting in your Flexible Spending/Savings Account (FSA). Unlike a Health Savings Account or HSA, pre-taxed funds contributed to an FSA are lost at the end of the year if an employee doesn’t use them, and an employer doesn’t adopt a carryover policy.  It’s to your advantage to review the various ways you can make the most out of your FSA by year-end.  

Book Those Appointments

One of the first things you should do is get those remaining appointments booked for the year. Most medical/dental/vision facilities book out a couple of months in advance, so it’s key to get in now to use up those funds.

Look for FSA-Approved Everyday Health Care Products

Many drugstores will often advertise FSA-approved products in their pharmacy area, within a flyer, or on their website. These products are usually tagged as “FSA approved”. Many of these products include items that monitor health and wellness – like blood pressure and diabetic monitors – to everyday healthcare products like children’s OTC meds, bandages, contact solution, and certain personal care items. If you need to use the funds up before the end of the year, it’s time to take a trip to your local drugstore and stock up on these items.

Know What’s Considered FSA-Eligible

Over the last several years, the IRS has loosened the guidelines on what is considered eligible under a FSA as more people became concerned about losing the money they put into these plans. There are many items that are considered FSA-eligible as long as a prescription or a doctor’s note is provided or kept on file. Here are a few to consider:

1.  Acupuncture. Those who suffer from chronic neck or back pain, infertility, depression/anxiety, migraines or any other chronic illness or condition, Eastern medicine may be the way to go. Not only are treatments relatively inexpensive, but this 3,000 year old practice is recognized by the U.S. National Institute of Health and is an eligible FSA expense.

2.  Dental/Vision Procedures. Dental treatment can be expensive—think orthodontia and implants. While many employers may offer some coverage, it’s a given there will be out-of-pocket costs you’ll incur. And, eye care plans won’t cover the cost of LASIK, but your FSA will. So, if you’ve been wanting to correct your vision without the aid of glasses or contacts, or your needing to get that child braces, using those FSA funds is the way to go.

3.  Health-boosting Supplements. While you cannot just walk into any health shop and pick up performance-enhancing powder or supplements and pay with your FSA card, your doctor may approve certain supplements and alternative options if they deem it to benefit your health and well-being. A signed doctor’s note will make these an FSA-eligible expense.

4.  Smoking-cessation and Weight-Loss Programs. If your doctor approves you for one of these programs with a doctor’s note deeming it’s medically necessary to maintain your health, certain program costs can be reimbursed under an FSA.

Talk to Your HR Department

When the IRS loosened guidelines a few years ago, they also made it possible for participants to carry over $500 to the next year. Ask Human Resources if your employer offers this, or if they provide a grace period (March 15 of the following year) to turn in receipts and use up funds. Employers can only adopt one of these two policies though.

Plan for the Coming Year

Analyze the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred this year and make the necessary adjustments to allocate what you believe you’ll need for the coming year. Take advantage of the slightly higher contribution limit for 2018.  If your company offers a FSA that covers dependent care, familiarize yourself with those eligible expenses and research whether it would be to your advantage to contribute to as well.  

Flexible Spending/Saving Accounts can be a great employee benefit offering tax advantages for employees that have a high-deductible plan or use a lot of medical. As a participant, using the strategies listed above will help you make the most out of your FSA.

 

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