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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!