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Friday, October 18, 2013

Tips on Ways to Use Your FSA Funds Before you Lose Them

Around this time every year, people who haven’t used all of the money set aside in their yearly Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) are scrambling to figure out how to maximize these funds before the end of the year.

FSA Pic
FSAs are popular benefits provided by employers that allow workers to set aside money to cover health-related expenses at pre-tax rates, which can add up to significant savings. The bittersweet realization of many people who elect FSA funds is that they expire at the end of the year, whether or not they have spent the money. So if you don’t use it, you lose it!

According to the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation, 20% of people who didn’t use all of their FSA funds last year forfeited $500 or more. The average person forfeited $43 - $60. While FSAs can save people a lot of money on their medical costs, there is no reason to let unused money go to waste at the end of the year, even if the funds seem miniscule.

Here are some ways you can maximize your extra FSA funds this year:

  1. Go to the dentist: You can use your FSA funds to cover any dental co-pays or charges. This money can also be used towards procedures not typically covered by insurance (i.e. braces). To save even more money, book your appointment through a dental savings website like Brighter.com, and save an average of 50% on your dental care.

  2. Get your eyes checked: many people don’t realize that vision check-ups can be paid for with FSA funds. If you have an old pair of glasses or contacts that need replacing, you can pay for those too! If you’ve been considering a vision-correcting surgery such as Lasik, you can also pay for it with you FSA funds (as long as it has not been paid for through your dental insurance or employer).

  3. Self-improvement: Many activities, programs and medications related to your self-improvement are also covered. For instance, if your doctor has requested that you lose weight, many hypertension, obesity and heart disease medications can be paid for with FSA funds. If you’ve joined a gym or health club, you can pay for activities related to weight-loss at these institutions with your FSA funds as well. Need to quit smoking or attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? These assistance programs are included as well (although nicotine gum or patches are not included). You can even get acupuncture with these funds!

  4. Preventive Screenings/Tests: Body scans or colonoscopies, for example, can be reimbursed through your FSA account.

  5. Home improvements: If you have made modifications to your home to accommodate a medical condition, those expenses could qualify for reimbursement through your FSA funds (such modifications can include railings, support bars, doors, stairways, ramps, and many more).

  6. Medical Conferences: If you have been interested in attending a conference to learn more about your medical condition, treatment options, or latest research findings, these events could qualify for payment through FSA funds.

  7. Birth control: All types of birth control are covered by your FSA funds, including condoms, pills, and intrauterine devices. You can even put this money towards a vasectomy or in vitro fertilization treatments.

For all procedures and products that you intend to pay for with your FSA funds, be prepared to provide proof of the expense and describe why you needed to spend that money. Take charge of your health today and spend those funds before it’s too late!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Small Businesses and Healthcare Costs: Ways to Save

Do you consider yourself a small business owner? Small businesses often struggle to afford sufficient health and dental benefits for their employees. The Affordable Care Act, which comes into full effect this year, includes an employer mandate, which means that any business with more than 50 employees needs to provide healthcare to their employees by January 1, 2015. If you fall into this business category, read on…

Healthcare costs can be expensive for small businesses. We’ve outlined some of the top tips for small business owners to consider when trying to lower their healthcare costs while providing medical care to their employees and their families. Also, while adult dental care is not a mandatory requirement with the ACA (see our related blog post here), a dental savings program such as Brighter can help curb dental costs!

163087806 Providing a high-deductible plan is one option for employers. High-deductible plans cost less for the employer, and encourage the employee to seek out and compare healthcare costs before they are incurred. There is a new trend towards price transparency in the healthcare market, and since employees will be initially paying more out-of-pocket for their healthcare costs, these high-deductible plans generally drive the patients to look for savings in advance.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are also a consideration for cost-conscious small business owners. FSAs allow employees to set aside money from their own paychecks on a pre-tax basis for healthcare expenses. Small businesses can also band together and purchase group plans as a way to lower costs.

If you have less than 50 employees at your company, you are eligible to take advantage of the new SHOP program that is part of the ACA. SHOP, which stands for Small Business Health Option Program marketplace, is a way for small businesses to compare various healthcare plans up front and select their enrollment on a rolling monthly basis. Unlike individuals, small businesses that use SHOP can enroll throughout the year and select the plan that makes the most sense for their company.[1] In addition, if small businesses purchase insurance through SHOP, they can receive a 50% tax break on their healthcare expenses starting in 2014 (up from 35% previously). The SHOP program will provide competitive options and more transparent information for small businesses purchasing healthcare plans.

Another choice for small businesses to consider is to implement a corporate wellness program. Wellness programs can come in many forms, including preventative care such as flu shots, discounted gym memberships, and nutritional education programs. These types of programs can encourage employees to take care of their health before a major problem arises and can lower health costs in the long term.

Preventative care can also include dental care and regular teeth cleanings. If you cannot fit dental insurance into your healthcare budget, you can encourage preventative check ups (and significant savings) through our Brighter.com savings programs. Please call us today to learn more about how you can bring Brighter to your workplace. Small business owners have a variety of options to keep health and dental care affordable for their companies, and the changes toward cost transparency will benefit employers and employees in their healthcare planning.







[1] "Launching Small Business Health Option Program Marketplace, HHS Ramps Up Outreach, Education." High Country Press. HCPress.com, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2013. <http://www.hcpress.com/news/launching-small-business-health-option-program-marketplace-hhs-ramps-up-outreach-education.html>.