Use it or Lose it – 10 Ways to use your FSA

Do you have a flexible spending account through your employer?  If you don’t use the funds in this medical spending account by December 31st you will likely lose the benefit in the account.  Below is a list of 10 ways to spend any extra benefit you still have during the month of December:

Please note, some employers will allow you to extend the benefit until March 15th.  However, this is per the employer and not all plans offer this extension.  Please contact your benefits coordinator for this pertinent information.

  1. Get a flu shot – Use this opportunity to update your family’s routine vaccinations.
  2. Make a visit to your doctor – routine annual exams, skin-cancer screenings, cholesterol checks.  These are all great ways to spend down the account and have the peace of mind knowing you are okay.
  3. Visit the Dentist – an extra cleaning maintains good dental health! Other coverage includes; fillings, dentures and supplies, orthodontic fees, oral surgery and braces.
  4. Alternative Therapy – Acupuncture therapy, Chiropractors, Psychiatric care and *Psychologist fees are most often not covered by health care plans, but flexible spending account funds can be used to pay for the treatments.
  5. All things Vision – Vision care is another area that is minimally covered by health insurance programs, but is a great way to use your flexible spending account money.  Examples include routine eye exams, updating your glasses (even prescription sunglasses), ordering contact lenses and solution, LASIK eye surgery and even purchasing guide dogs for the blind.
  6. Can you hear me now? From the examinations to the hearing aid device and even hearing aid batteries, all are eligible using flex dollars.
  7. Prescription Drugs – If you need to refill your prescriptions do so now.  Please note, over-the-counter medications are no longer eligible under FSA rules, however, with a prescription the medication will be covered.  It’s a little more work, but if you need pain relievers, cough medicine, antacids or allergy medicines call your doctor and request a prescription.  Most times your doctor will just call in the prescription for you.
  8. Over-the-Counter supplies – bandages, first aid kits, diabetes supplies, *vitamins, *humidifier, crutches, wheelchairs are among the supplies that you can purchase OTC with your flex dollars.
  9. Your health first – Do you want to quit smoking or lose weight? Don’t wait for the New Year, now is the time, FSA funds can be used for smoking cessation and *weight loss counseling.
  10. Track your medical mileage – In 2011 the reimbursed rate is .19 cents per mile for transportation fees to eligible medical appointments.  Be sure to log your miles from your home to the doctor’s office for reimbursement.

* A doctor’s note may be required to ensure treatments are medically necessary.

Flexing spending accounts can get a bad reputation because of the potential to overfund the account and wind up losing the money or spending it in ways that you would not have otherwise spent it.

In order to determine the amount to fund each year contact your benefits coordinator to obtain a list of covered medical expenses.

Some medical costs are easier to determine than others.  From this list determine what costs you know your family will incur (co-pays, deductibles, dental appointments, vision appointments, routine exams, etc.) and use that as your base for contribution to the FSA.

Also, remember that if your family has a life-changing event during the year you will be permitted to modify your FSA election. Common life-changing events include the birth or adoption of a child or a spouse’s change in employment; see your benefits coordinator for a complete list.